Hays High golf coach Mark Watts has a pretty good idea what to expect this season from junior Sophia Garrison and sophomore Taleia McCrae, the two returners off last year’s team that placed sixth at state.

Garrison and McCrae led the way for the Indians in Tuesday’s Hays High Invitational at Smoky Hill County Club, placing second and fourth, respectively, to help Hays claim third place as a team.

The key for the Indians moving forward will be finding others to set up and provide solid supporting scores.

“We’re awfully young,” Watts said. “We don’t have any seniors. I was hoping those two (Garrison and McCrae) would be able to do well enough to pull up some of the other scores. We struggled a little bit. First tournament, it’s hot, this golf course isn’t easy.

“Overall, we’re going to have to find some different scores to go with those other two, because they’re going to be pretty consistent. We’ve got 18 girls out, so I’ve got 16 girls to pick from, and they’re all pretty close to the same (level), a lot of them. Some of those are just going to have to start breaking through and we’ll see what we’ve got.” 

Garrison was the runner-up with a 46 in the nine-hole tournament, six strokes behind Garden City Alyssa McMillen, who was the tournament's individual champion for the second straight year. Garden City’s Ryan Warren took third with a 49 while McCrae was fourth with a 51.

Garden City repeated as team champions with a score of 194, followed by Salina South (216) and Hays High (219)

Watts said Garrison and McCrae both finished the day strong.

“Sophia had some pretty high scores to start with and her last seven holes was outstanding — same way with Taleia,” Watts said. “Those two picked it up after the first few bumps in the road.”

Hays High freshman Katie Dinkel posted a 58 while junior Sierra Smith rounded out the Indians’ team score with a 64.

Watts said he’s eager to watch his younger players progress throughout the season.

“Usually we’ve always had a set six, but this is a different year,” Watts said. “I’m really excited about this team because I think there’s a lot of potential. We’ve got a lot of athletes, a lot of people who have played other sports growing up. It just takes a little bit of knowledge and learning the game.

“This gives us something to look at and practice for our next tournament,” he added. “I’m glad it was just a nine-hole tournament. We weren’t ready for an 18-hole tournament. It’s nice to get third place in your own tournament. One of my goals is to always medal and we did get third.”

Thomas More Prep-Marian took sixth place as a team. Senior Jenna Romme led the Monarchs with a 56. Senior Haleigh Spray recorded a 61 while senior Abby Heimerman and junior Allison Applequist each had 63s.

Both Hays High and TMP will be in action again on Tuesday. The Indians will be competing in the Salina Central tournament while the Monarchs will take part in the Goodland Invitational.