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SANTA ANA PUEBLO – With its place in the Class AAAA state championship already secure, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls golf team could take it easy on the course.
But the Hilltoppers didn’t take it easy on their opponents.
In Monday’s District 2AAAA championship tournament, Los Alamos scored a decisive win over the only team in the district that could field a full team. Los Alamos was 46 strokes better than Española Valley, totaling a 390 at the Santa Ana Golf Course.
The Hilltoppers carded three of only four scores to break triple-digits at Monday’s tournament, played on the Tamaya and Cheena holes.
Cayla Sanderson, the Hilltoppers’ No. 1 individual, lived up to her title Monday, topping Española Valley’s Alicia Salazar by two strokes to win the district championship.
“It started off great,” Sanderson said of her showing Monday, in which she finished with a 92. “I had a good round. There were a couple of parts that were a little hard for me, though.”
Sanderson said the putting was touch-and-go throughout Monday’s tournament, a common complaint in the Santa Ana clubhouse. The course greens were freshly aerated, and that made for some bumpy putting, particularly on the front nine.
Nevertheless, Sanderson, Salazar and Hilltoppers Miranda Olinger and Tiffany Nasise made it through to take the top four district slots, all finishing in the 90s.
Olinger finished with a 96, just two strokes behind Salazar, and Nasise turned in a 99.
Olinger had pars on 4, 11 and 17 Monday and was largely able to avoid big numbers to pick up third in the tournament.
“The front wasn’t as good as the back,” Olinger said. “The front was a lot bumpier and (putts) broke a lot. Putting definitely threw me off.”
Nasise, playing in the final group, was still in the running for the runner-up spot going to the final hole, but struggled on the par 5, which featured a protruding water hazard about 30 yards in front of the green, scoring a nine on the hole.
Sanderson had pars on six holes, four on the front, and limited damage to one or two strokes when she was in trouble to secure the 2AAAA individual title.
Prior to Monday’s tournament, the Hilltoppers had already punched their ticket to state. In their appearance at the Eldorado Invitational April 24, the Hilltoppers earned their third state qualifying leg to secure their berth at state.
Los Alamos didn’t rest on that second place finish, however, scoring another second place team finish and a fourth team qualifying leg a week ago at the Farmington Invitational.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” Los Alamos girls coach John McBride said. “Considering the condition of the course, all our players feel like they could shave some strokes off their scores.”
Alicia Herrera also made the All-District team with her top-five individual finish Monday, garnering a 103 and edging out Taos’ Carlie Malone for the fifth spot.
Considering the pressure was off the Hilltopper girls – the winner of the 2AAAA tournament also qualifies automatically for the state tournament – it was a solid all-around outing.
“Basically, this was just practice for state, to get us in the right mode,” Olinger said.
Sanderson said she thought the team might go into state with the jitters, but was confident Sunday’s practice round on the University of New Mexico Championship Course would take care of any nervousness.
Here are the results from Monday’s District 2AAAA championship tournament (players are from Los Alamos unless otherwise indicated):
1. Los Alamos, 390; 2. Española Valley, 436.
Cayla Sanderson 44-48—92
Alicia Salazar, Española Valley 42-52—94
Miranda Olinger 49-47—96
Tiffany Nasise 48-51—99
Alicia Herrera 52-51—103
Carlie Malone, Taos 49-55—104
Julie Chung 51-55—106
Shayla McCall, Española Valley 53-53—106
Sonya Lopez, Taos 52-55—107
Beverly Williams, Española Valley 52-61—113