Last year, SM East headed into the state 6A golf tournament with understandably high expectations of taking the title. They were hosting the tournament on their home course at Meadowbrook Country Club, after all, and featured two of the top golfers in the state in Chase Hanna and Connor Knabe.
But a marginal day on the links for the Lancers allowed Blue Valley West to take an unexpected victory. The Lancers had to settle for second.
On Tuesday, it was SM East that played the spoiler.
Fueled by outstanding play on the back nine at Topeka Country Club, the Lancers walked away with their first 6A title since 2011, beating second place Washburn Rural by eight strokes.
“It’s a one day deal where anything could happen,” said coach Ermanno Ritschl after the day on the course. “[The favored teams] kind of stubbed their toes coming down the stretch and we played really well. The reverse happened last year.”
Junior Lucas Jones has the best outing for the Lancers shooting one under par on the day with 71 and finishing third overall in the in the individual standings. Andy Spencer shot a 72 for SM East, good enough for fifth overall. Johnnie Norton shot a 76 and John Salez shot an 81 to give the Lancers a team score of 300 strokes. (Only the teams top four performers are factored into the team score. Worth Blackman, Brady Clark and John Sallaz played Tuesday as well).
On the par four 18th hole alone, the Lancers shaved four strokes, with Norton and Jones both shooting birdies. Spencer drove the green and then sank a 40 foot putt for eagle.
Ritschl, who said before the tournament he knew his team had a good shot at the title, credits the Lancers with staying focused on the back nine. Halfway through the tournament, they trailed Washburn Rural by two strokes.
“We’d played a practice round and had a tournament here earlier, so we knew the back nine could be had,” he said. “There were some birdie opportunities there, so I was somewhat optimistic we could do it.”
The win adds yet another feather to the cap of an already remarkable year for SM East athletics. The SM East golf team joins this year’s girls and boys tennis teams, and girls swim and dive team as 6A champions. SM East’s baseball team is still in contention for a state title, as well, and the football team was state runner up.