Herrera heads to final state tourney

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By Mike Cote

While two out of three ain’t bad, three out of three is considerably better.

That was the feat that Los Alamos Hilltopper golfer Alicia Herrera pulled off during the spring 2010 season.

Herrera, who will head to the Class AAAA state championship tournament next week with her team, had been away from the game of golf for almost nine months before the start of the spring golf season, but that didn’t slow her down very much.

Herrera, the lone senior on the team, earned a state qualifying leg in her first tournament back after taking the entire fall season off. At the Capital Invitational April 9, Herrera shot a 90 to grab her first leg of the season in her first tournament.

She would knock out her other two qualification legs in her next two tournaments, meaning that, regardless of the outcome of the Hilltoppers’ season, she would head to Las Cruces and compete for a state title.

“I’m sort of shocked, because I didn’t play in the fall,” Herrera said. “I’m still not sure what happened.”

The rest of the team would qualify for the state tournament with its default victory at the District 2AAAA tournament last week. Los Alamos was the only school in the district that could field a full team — Española Valley was the only school other than Los Alamos that had more than two entries into the tournament.

Herrera was considered one of the favorites to vie for a district title at the 2AAAA tournament, which was played at the forgiving Santa Fe Country Club. While Herrera’s round started off well, she missed some shots coming back in that would ultimately cost her a chance for a title.

Her teammate, Shelby Fellows, however, finished tied with Taos’ Carlie Malone for the low round. Both players shot a 91 in regulation, but Malone would top Fellows on the first playoff hole.

The course at New Mexico State University is one that Herrera has seen before. In her freshman year, 2007, the Hilltoppers won their first state championship since 1984 playing on that same course.

Herrera said she only has a few vague memories of the course itself, but the temperature is still fresh in her mind.

“The weather was really hot,” she said. “Course-wise, there was a lot of hazards on the sides. You just have to stay out of it.”

Rather than play golf during the fall season — golf is played in both the spring and fall seasons during the school year — Herrera elected to run cross country for the Hilltoppers.

Prior to that, she had played in some Sun Country Junior tournaments immediately after the spring 2009 season, but said she was just looking to switch gears for awhile.

“Being a senior, I felt more comfortable with my game,” she said. “It’s really a mental thing.”

For Monday’s first round, Herrera will tee off at 9:30 a.m. She’ll be playing with a solid foursome, including Belen’s Arrianna Estrada and Shiprock’s Aldena King, both of which could be among the tops of the leaderboard at the end of Tuesday’s final round.

That foursome will be one of the last four groups to get on the course Monday.

Deming is the defending Class AAAA team champion, and its players will be among the first to get on the course Monday.

Kirtland Central could be a solid contender for a state title this season and Goddard, which has been prolific at this tournament in the past, could again be in the mix for a team title.