Golf: Topper girls are fifth at 4A tourney

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LA slips one spot on day two, Herrera has top-20 finish

By Mike Cote

ALBUQUERQUE — Greatly improved weather conditions didn’t greatly improve scores in the second day of the Class 4A golf championship.
For the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls golf team, there was some improvement from the opening round, but not enough to make a move into the top three. In fact, the only team in the 4A tournament that made a major move was the Albuquerque Academy Chargers, who actually surpassed Los Alamos for fourth place in the final team tallies.
The Hilltopper girls finished with a two-day total of 773. They were nine shots better than Monday, but that improvement didn’t gain them much ground in their attempt to move up to the third position.
Los Alamos finished fifth in the final standings, dropping one spot after Academy shaved 23 strokes from its opening-round total, beating Los Alamos out for fourth by two shots.
In the boys tournament, Los Alamos’ only entry, senior Thomas Herrera closed out his career with a final round 86. He finished with a two-day total of 170 shots, placing him tied for 19th place.
Herrera finished 20 shots behind state champion Max Dawkins of Academy. Dawkins had one of just two even-par rounds in the tournament Tuesday, the other belonging to Deming’s Derek Baeza, who was 7-over-par Tuesday following his even-par round Monday. Dawkins held off Baeza by one stroke.
Last year’s individual title winner, Simon Miller of Academy, finished tied for 11th, 15 shots off the pace.
For Los Alamos’ entries, the tournament never went as well as any of them hoped.
“We would’ve liked to get third, but it’s alright,” Los Alamos’ Shelby Fellows said. “We tried our best.”
The Hilltopper girls had high expectations going into the 2011 spring season after earning their trip to state in fall 2010. However, the Hilltoppers were inconsistent for much of the spring and a slow start Monday didn’t help get them on track.
Conditions were rough Monday. Wind and dust made visibility low in many spots on the University of New Mexico Championship course and Los Alamos ended up carding some big numbers throughout the day, enough to put it out of realistic contention for a title.
Tuesday, none of the top three schools, Deming, Goddard or Kirtland Central, played particularly well, but aside from earning a few strokes here and there, Los Alamos could never make the push it was looking for.
Academy, however, got into its groove, carding a 374 to overtake Los Alamos.
“You’ve got to pat them on the back,” Los Alamos head coach Mike Lippiatt said of the Chargers. “We still were better, but the bottom line was we didn’t keep that 90-95 average we were talking about.”
The Hilltoppers’ top individual finisher was senior Miranda Olinger. Olinger, who had to sit out the 2010 state tournament due to a foot injury that required surgery in the off-season, had a two-day total of 186, tying her for 15th place.
Fellows, for her part, chopped 10 strokes off Monday’s total, giving her a 188 and putting her in the top 20 individually.
“It was a combination of the wind and my putting,” Fellows said. “It was so much better. I was more used to the greens and I was able to judge the speed better.”
The 4A individual title was won by Belen’s Taylar Jaramillo. Jaramillo, the lone qualifier from Belen, scored a 76 Tuesday, the best round turned in on the girls’ side of the tournament to take the individual title.
Deming, which earned the 4A team championship for the third straight year, placed three individuals in the top eight overall.
On the boys’ side, Herrera was also hoping to see some better numbers than he posted in the final tournament of his career.
“I played alright, I guess. I’m a little disappointed with the way I played,” Herrera said. “I had a hard time all around with my game. I was hoping to shoot a little better.”
Herrera said he’d had difficulty with his swing during the spring and was trying to make adjustments – including working his hands all the way through – which never panned out.
“I had an idea, but I didn’t put the ball where I wanted,” he said. “I didn’t give myself opportunities to make birdies, or even pars.”
Herrera will graduate later this month – although he’s been looked at by some college teams he said he’s not very interested in playing at the collegiate level – as will teammate Tim Branch.
For the Hilltopper girls, Olinger and Fellows are both graduating, as is senior Morgan Vaughn.