ROCKFORD – After winning the Fox Valley Conference championship for the first time since 2018 a week ago, the Crystal Lake Central co-op’s girls golf team looked to end an even longer drought Thursday.
Central co-op, which also takes golfers from Cary-Grove and Crystal Lake South, did just that and claimed the Class 2A Harlem Regional team title at Atwood Homestead, shooting a 350 and defeating runner-up McHenry (376) by 26 shots.
Before Thursday, the Tigers’ last regional title was in 2016. The last time they made it to sectionals as a team was in 2019.
Central co-op and McHenry, along with third-place Boylan (383) advance to Monday’s Burlington Central Sectional at Whisper Creek in Huntley. Prairie Ridge (390) took fourth and Huntley (392) was fifth.
“It feels really good,” Tigers junior Madeline Trannel said. “This is something we’ve been really working on this season, getting as far as we can as a team in the state series. It’s a really good first step for us. I’ve never personally qualified for sectionals, so this will be really exciting to go as a team and have that experience.”
Trannel and junior Delaney Medlyn, last year’s Northwest Herald Girls Golfer of the Year, tied for third individually with 83s. Sophomore Rylee Rud, who also qualified for sectionals last season, tied for seventh with an 89 and senior Estrella Bernal added a 95.
Boylan’s Eva Greenberg earned medalist honors with a 2-over-par 74, followed by Belvidere co-op’s Emma Pierson (76) in second place.
“This year, everybody’s been very close. We know we can depend on each other to put those good scores out and pull through if some of us are struggling. We’re really there for each other.”— Madeline Trannel, Crystal Lake Central co-op junior
“This is what we’ve been working toward,” said Medlyn, a three-time sectional qualifier. “Everybody is putting their best foot forward, and everybody is working hard as a team. I said it before, but our team bonding this year is way better than it’s been since I’ve been here.”
“This year, everybody’s been very close,” Trannel added. “We know we can depend on each other to put those good scores out and pull through if some of us are struggling. We’re really there for each other.”
McHenry is heading to sectionals as a team for the first time since 2016. Senior Maddy Donovan tied for seventh with an 89, followed by Kilynn Axelson (94), Jennifer Henry (95) and Abby Powers (98).
Donovan is a four-time sectional qualifier and will look to make her first state appearance.
“Next week is my last week of high school golf, so I’m just looking forward to ending it on a good note this year. The past years, I think I’ve always been looking for something great, and hopefully this year it will be great. I’m just excited to end it with the people I love the most.”
Axelson, a junior, is making her second straight sectional appearance.
“It’s going to be very emotional because I love all of these seniors,” Axelson said. “For this to be their last high school tournament, it’s going to be really emotional. I’m going in with no big expectations, no pressure, and just try and do what I normally do.”
Prairie Ridge junior Jenna Albanese, who won the Fox Valley Conference individual title last week, tied for ninth with an 89 and is going to sectionals for the third year in a row.
Albanese said the course played longer because of rain overnight and in the early morning hours.
“Some of my approach shots wouldn’t make it to the green,” Albanese said. “That made it a little more difficult for sure. Things did not move, [the ball] did not roll at all. I had the right distance, I just wasn’t accurate enough. It feels good [advancing] considering I wasn’t playing my best round today.”
Huntley senior Aubrey Dingbaum (94) and junior Maddie Sloan (96) and Prairie Ridge sophomore Grace Mertel (98) also moved on to sectionals. Dingbaum and Sloan are going for the third time, while Mertel is a first-time qualifier.
Dingbaum took an 8 on the first hole but continued to grind away.
“That was a rough start, but I was able to get two pars right after that,” Dingbaum said. “I was glad that I pushed through it, and that was probably the best thing about today. I want to make it as far as I can. I just want to do the best I can and hopefully move on to state.”