|Third Top 10 Finish at State in Four Years for Bluebirds|
|Contributed Photo. The Highlands Bluebirds Boys Golf Team finished ninth at state this year.|
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Highlands Bluebirds boys golf Head Coach Bert Richey has set a bar for the team.
That is a top 10 finish at state. The Bluebirds had a huge excuse looking them in the eyes if that did not happen this year with the graduation of two NCAA Division I golfers from the school's best-ever sixth-place team in 2020 in Luke Muller and Justin Gabbard. They golf for Northern Kentucky University and Xavier University respectively.
But the Bluebirds came through and hit that goal winning their third Region 8 title in four years and finishing ninth at state shooting a 389 on the par 72 Bowling Green County Club course. Highlands shot the fourth-best team score of 39-over par 327 on the second day to move from 11th to ninth place.
"We didn't play well (Friday)," Richey said. "The kids did well keeping the ball below the hole and minimizing their mistakes. We didn't do a very good job (Friday) of playing like we should have and (Saturday), we did."
The Bluebirds shot a 62-over par 350 on the first day. But four of the five scores improved from the first day.
Junior Joel Craft led Highlands on the second day shooting a two-over 74 for his career best round in six tries at the state tournament. Craft shot a two-day total of 160 good for a tie for 52nd overall. Craft has also played on the 2020 and 2018 region tournament championship teams. The Bluebirds placed eighth in 2018.
Highlands senior Jack Schneider and freshman Hank Shick returned from last year's state tournament team. Shick shot an 85 Saturday after shooting a state-best 81 Friday for a two-day total of 166 to tie for 69th out of 105 total who golfed both days.
"I had to be more of a leader this year and just teach the three freshmen how to play and how to act on the golf course," Schneider said. "The nerves of playing at state for the first time are extremely high. As young as these kids are, it probably hit them a big harder. It's just go out and have fun on day two. You play best when you're relaxed. We were relaxed (Saturday) and people were enjoying the golf course because it was their last day no matter what."
Schneider shot his best round at state Saturday with an 81. He garnered a two-day total of 167 after shooting 86 on Friday. That tied for 71st.
Two freshmen made their first appearances at the state tournament this year in Nate Surrey and Oliver Golden. Surrey improved his score by 10 strokes Saturday going from a 97 to an 87 for a two-day total of 184 to tie for 101st. Golden shot a 98 Saturday after not finishing Friday.
"Coach Richey helped us out. He told us we could be good again," Surrey said. "I knew Oliver and I had to step up being the four and five guys. The (BG Country Club course) is really difficult so I think learning to stay with and stay in the game is really important just because it's a long course. If you have a double or triple bogey, you have to bounce back and have a comeback hole."
Highlands returns four golfers with state tournament experience for next year. The next goal would be to finish in the top five.
"They improved the whole year. We played in a lot of tournaments," Richey said. "We got a lot of experience. I really don't worry about how we play until the end because I want to peek at the right time. We kept playing more consistent. Their confidence is growing. Jack and Joel did a great job of mentoring those kids along."
Christian Academy of Louisville senior and Oklahoma University commit Matthew Troutman won the overall crown shooting a 138 going four under on the first day and one under on the second day. CAL edged Madison Central, 309-310 to win the state championship.
The Highlands Boys finished fourth in the meet at Idlewild Park in Burlington with 121 points and the girls took eighth with 210. 10 boys team and nine girls teams participated in the race.
Sophomore Malcolm Robertson led the Highlands boys placing 12th in 17 minutes, 42.4 seconds. Junior Eden Brumer led the Highlands girls taking 10th in 21:23.2. Ryle won the NKAC Division II girls race and Conner won the boys Division II race.
Highlands runs in the Meet of Champions on Saturday in Paris.
Both Highlands soccer teams drew 9th Region Quarterfinal games at Tower Park as a result of winning 36th District championships.
The Highlands girls (12-4-1 overall) drew 33rd District Runner-up Ryle (9-4-5) at 7 p.m. The teams did not meet during the regular season. The winner advances to the semifinals at Boone County on Wednesday against either Dixie Heights or Beechwood at 7:30 p.m.
The Highlands boys (17-4-1) drew Cooper (13-5-3) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The winner faces either St. Henry or Covington Catholic in the region semifinals on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
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