By Tara Nelson
After being told that she’d made it into the second day of competition, Blaine’s Nicole Christiansen was told Wednesday morning that she actually had just missed the first-day cut by a couple of strokes and thereby failed to move on to the second day of competition in the AA state golf tournament.
Slogging through the muck at a rainy and challenging Homestead course, Christiansen scored a respectable if not flashy 102, initially thought to be just under the wire, the cut-off point for half of the 80 golfers who began the day under umbrellas and with thunder rumbling in the distance.
Claire Rachor of Bellingham high school led the pack with a first day score of 77.
The Red Raiders have won the last six state titles but are unlikely to repeat as five Burlington golfers moved on to the second day, making them the odds-on favorite.
“She’s going out there to have fun the second day,” said her coach, Blaine high school history teacher Ron Kowalke, before learning of the arithmetical error that once corrected dumped Christiansen out of the tournament. He’s the third head coach to run the program in the last three years but figures to stick with it for a while, giving the team needed stability at the top.
“We’re still very proud of her, of course,” said Nicole’s mom, Irene Christiansen, adding that the only related sport she and her husband have ever played was miniature golf.
“We’re not golfers but she took to it pretty quickly. She’s like that with most sports,” Christiansen said, a little amazed at her daughter’s making it to the second and final day of the state tournament after less than five months’ total playing experience spread out over the past year and two months.
Speaking for herself, the competitive, hard-working junior said that she had a reasonably good front nine, getting a par on the par three third hole, but began to falter on the back of the course, taking a nine on the par four tenth hole.
With the weather so crummy that even ducks were seen leaving the course early, Christiansen just dug in and ground out a finish that while out of the money is still an amazing accomplishment for someone with no more than a few months actually playing the game.
“She’s an honest player, chips and putts well and just hangs in there,” said Kowalke, adding, “she’s a grinder, just keeps working and working.”
The par 72 Homestead course is tough enough in good weather, but in the rain forest conditions on Tuesday it bordered on the unplayable. “There’s a lot of water,” Kowalke said, “and while the rough was very wet and thick, and tough to get a ball out of, you can’t play out of water. She did real well.”
Christiansen will be back next year as a senior and figures to be the backbone of the team along with classmates Tessa Baker and Ashley Vincent, who played well at the district tournament. They’ll be joined by this year’s bumper crop of sophomores that includes Shelby Felts, Alex Hendricks-Hockey, Alex Grubb and Brittany Kent.
“Everyone’s back next year,” said Kowalke, “which means we can improve on our goals. This year it was to get seven to play in a varsity match and get one player to state, and we’ve done that.”
Yu makes it half-way through state match
In a day that gave new meaning to the words cold and damp, Blaine’s veteran sophomore golfer Marcus Yu fell just two strokes shy of making the cut to move on to the second day of the state AA golf tournament held at Blaine’s Loomis Trail course.
Yu, whose swing is as fluid as a lava lamp, said he didn’t think he hit the ball very well. His coach, Steve Barthlow, described Yu’s performance as understandable, given the level of competition.
“He missed three putts he should have made, but he’s only a sophomore,” Barthlow explained, adding that getting involved in the Junior Washington Golf Association will mean that Yu will play in a lot of tournaments this summer. “He’ll come back next year and he’ll be fine,” Barthlow said.
The day was dominated by Vancouver Washington’s Hockinson high school and its premier player, two-time state winner Gaston de la Torres, who carded a four under par 68 despite the blustery cold.
Yu birdied the long par five 14th hole, one of five birds he bagged on the front nine, but then double-bogied the 15th and dropped a few more strokes on 17 and 18.
“It doesn’t take much at this level for someone to fall back,” Barthlow said, “and if he’d saved a stroke here or there he’d still be playing. He came close, though, and had a good tournament.”
Asked about next year’s team, Barthlow admitted that the squad will be a young one.
“Aside from Marcus we’ll have Chris Collins, a sophomore who made it through districts; Josh Henriksen, Nick Van Buskirk, and Odie Johannessen all return as seniors next year to form the nucleus of what promises to be a decent team.
Blaine track and field players rank high at state
Seven girls and eight boys from Blaine’s state ranked track and field team are headed for the state meet at Mt. Tahoma high school in Tacoma on Friday May 23 after placing fourth or better at the district finals last weekend at Cedarcrest high school in Duvall.
Robin Taylor won the girls pole vault at 10 feet nine inches and Shayne Moore won the 110 high hurdles in 15.02 seconds. Other events in which Blaine athletes qualified include:
Bre Olason (100, 200, 4x100), Gaby Avena (discus), Lacey Montgomery (100 high hurdles), Chanel Colinares (4 x 100, 4 x 200), Robin Taylor (4 x 100, 4 x 200), Breanna Adams (4 x 100, 4 x 200), Alison Raine (4 x 200).
Shayne Moore (300 Int Hurdles, 4 x 400), Douglas Ramirez (800), Tim Bradley (4x400), Freddy Johncox (4x400), Alex Bresnan (4x400, long jump), Bryan Chau (shot put), Blake Stanovich (discus), Nate Tewalt (high jump).