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Golfers take 7th at state

Members of the Wildcat girls' golf team, from left, Maddie Wagner, Manuela Riascos, Kacey Simone, Mari Pechacek, Katie Byron and Halle Hauer pose for a picture at the WIAA State Golf Tournament at University Ridge in Madison last week. Submitted photo

The Wildcat girls' golf team overcame some first-day jitters to cut 15 strokes off its score in the second round and move up two spots in the standings to finish seventh at the WIAA Girls State Golf Tournament in Madison last Monday and Tuesday.

River Falls was making its first appearance at the state tournament since 2001. After finishing with a team total of 358 Monday, the golfers carded 343 Tuesday to finish with a two-day total of 701. Homestead took the Division 1 title with a score of 657.

"The first day, the girls played guarded, trying to control their swings too much," Wildcat coach Deb Meyer said. "On day two, they settled in and played golf like they had all season. We wanted to prove that we belonged there and I think the girls did just that."

Meyer said a hole-in-one by senior Mari Pechacek in Tuesday's second round gave the entire team a boost.

"It gave them an extra bit of confidence," she said. "For Mari to follow up with a bogey and par is pretty impressive. It shows tremendous control to maintain her cool after an ace at the state tournament. Even though she wasn't pleased with her final score, getting that hole in one is something she will never forget."

Pechacek finished with a two-day total of 189 (90-99).

Columbian exchange student Manuela Riascos led the Cats with rounds of 81 and 79 to finish tied for eighth place in the individual standings with a total of 160. Halle Hauer added scores of 92 and 81 to finish with a 173, tied for 33rd place overall, while Kacey Simone put together sores of 95 and 86 to place 50th with a total of 181. Katie Byron went from a 109 Monday to a 97 Tuesday to finish with a two-day total of 206.

"Halle played great on the second day; she kept her focus and stuck with a game plan the entire round," Meyer said. "Kacey and Katie both also improved their scores and played the way I knew they could."

Hauer, Byron and Maddie Wagner, who served as the Wildcats' alternate at state, will all be back next year while the Cats will say goodbye to seniors Pechacek and Simone, along with Riascos, who will return to her native Columbia in July.

"She is such a great player, and a wonderful person," Meyer said about Riascos. "We'll miss her, but her goal is to return to the states to play college golf, so I anticipate seeing her name in the headlines in the future."

Meyer said cousins Pechacek and Simone will leave their mark on the program for years to come. 

"Mari and Kacey told me when they were sophomores that they were going to state before they graduated," the coach noted. "Last year, they missed it by one shot in a playoff against New Richmond. This year, they achieved their goal. They worked hard for the entire four years they were in the program. They are true leaders in every sense of the word. I can't tell you how much we will miss their talents, skills and personalities next year. They have raised the bar for River Falls girls' golf, and I know our underclassmen are better because of it."

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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