Monday was a day of firsts for the Blair girls golf team at Elks Country Club in Columbus.
For the first time since 2013, the Bears qualified a full team for the Class B State Championships. All five of those BHS golfers were competing in their very first state tournament.
“I'm proud of my girls,” coach Ross Udey said Tuesday after the second day of the event.
The Bears were 10th out of 12 teams, finishing with 840 strokes. State champion Scottsbluff carded 677, while runner-up Gering had 691.
“I think they did well,” Udey said of his team. “We're excited about where they can go.”
But before talk of the future, BHS played in the present on a sunny first day. Freshman Mallory Stirek was the first Class B girl to tee off Monday with everyone watching at holes No. 1 and 10, which were right next to one another near the Elks clubhouse.
Udey said he gave Stirek his usual advice before she started, and after the freshman struck her ball she received polite applause and a few “good shot” compliments from the crowd.
Stirek shot a 113 on Monday before carding 111 strokes on Tuesday in windy conditions. Udey called her effort “consistent” throughout.
The Bears' leader at the state tournament was Rachel Parks. The junior finished with a 189 over 36 holes, carding a 93 on Monday and a 96 on Tuesday. She tied for 19th overall.
On her first hole of the tournament, Parks had to follow a long, straight tee shot from a future state champion Scottsbluff Bearcat. She wound up receiving equal response from onlookers and a compliment from the group's scorer.
“She played each of her nines strong,” Udey said, relaying a silly story from Tuesday when someone picked up Parks' ball during play.
Ava Rech, a BHS, senior was the lone Bear making her state golf debut and guaranteed final appearance. She had strong shot to reach the green on her first hole, but shot a 113 on the day. Twenty-four hours later she cut 13 strokes from her score and finished tied for 45th.
“It was really impressive,” Udey said. Rech fell short of her goal to break 100, finishing with just that, but the coach was pleased with her effort.
On Monday, Anna Moore was a part of the last pair to start state golf competition. Wearing special orange and black Halloween socks, she finished with a 106.
Udey said Moore's second nine holes were much better than her first nine on Tuesday as she finished with 216 total strokes.
Kaia Stewart, meanwhile, finished the state golf tournament 57th with 222 swings. During her first-ever state hole, she reached the green before the other two golfers in her group.
With 111s on both Monday and Tuesday, Udey complimented Stewart for her consistency. Overall, the coach said the team will miss Rech next fall, but will also be focused on getting back to state. His hope is that they'll finish even better than they did in their return after a six-year team absence.
“We're going to push a little more,” the coach said regarding offseason work.
Though he usually doesn't require it, Udey made sure the Bears stayed for the awards ceremony at the end of the tournament Tuesday. After their first appearances, BHS' golfers know — from beginning to end — what state is all about.