And on the seventh try, Chanute summited the mountain.
No, the Chanute Blue Comets girls golf team wasn’t celebrating earning a berth in the state tournament after some extensive drought. After all, they’ve either sent at least one individual to the state tournament or qualified as an entire team every year since the program’s inception in 2009.
After finishing third overall in the 4A Regionals at Stone Creek Golf Course on Monday to automatically earn spots for the whole team in next week’s state tournament, the source of Chanute’s joy was the sense that it had finally gotten over the hump at the right time this year.
“It was just very encouraging,” Blue Comets head coach Trevor Ewert said. “The girls really put together their best holes of the year. You always want to see things start to come together at the end when you’re getting into the postseason, and that’s what happened.”
In all six regular-season tournaments this year, Chanute never finished ahead of both the Labette County Grizzlies and the Independence Bulldogs on the same day.
Three times this season, the Blue Comets finished below both of those opponents in a tournament’s standings.
One stroke was the difference that separated Labette County in third place and Chanute in fourth place in the final SEK League standings.
The Grizzlies and Bulldogs were litmus tests all season for just how far Chanute had the potential to go in the postseason — even right up to the point when the Blue Comets hosted those two opponents as part of the field at Regionals on Monday.
So, when Chanute concluded the tournament with a team score of 450 strokes in third place — three strokes ahead of Independence and 16 ahead of Labette County — the wave of relief crashed over Ewert.
“The girls did an awesome job,” Ewert said. “We’ve competed with some of those teams in our league all year and consistently come behind Labette County and Independence. To be able to come out ahead of those teams was a huge accomplishment.”
One of the main factors in Chanute’s success on Monday that helped them overcome that obstacle was Tierra Ward’s performance.
Make no mistake, the Blue Comets still needed the outstanding outings they got from Megan Kueser and Jessica Varndell, who shot a 100 and 104 and would’ve qualified as individuals, regardless of Chanute’s team standings.
But Ward, a sophomore in only her third varsity tournament of the season, stepped up on a huge stage and shot a 119 for 22nd overall and the third-lowest score for Chanute.
With senior Katelyn Caldwell playing through a neck and shoulder injury that was limiting her swing, Ward’s ability to rise to the occasion in a tournament where the margin of error was so thin meant everything for the Blue Comets.
“She did great,” Ewert said. “For being at her first Regionals, for not competing in very many varsity tournaments this season, I think she did a really good job. To be able to come in and give us a qualifying score was big time.”
Behind those crucial three outings, Chanute (450) joined Winfield (362), Fort Scott (438) and Independence (453) as the four qualifying teams from the tournament. As far as individual qualifiers go, Labette County will send two golfers to the state tournament, while Parsons, Wellington, Girard and Mulvane will each send one golfer.
Caldwell (127) and Chanute sophomore Emma Waltermire (128) finished together in the standings at 30th place and 31st place.
The Blue Comets will travel to Salina for the Class 4A state tournament on Monday and Tuesday.