Area golfers pleased at chance to compete at first 3A state championships

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BROOMFIELD -- James Irwin senior Alexis McCowan wasn't excited by her opening-round score.

But the school's first state qualifier was pleased to have the chance to compete against other small programs in the first 3A girls' golf championships Monday at the Broadlands Golf Course.

"Absolutely," said McCowan, who carded a 119 to open the two-day tournament in Broomfield. "We have a lot of girls (at 3A schools) who work very hard who now get the chance to come up north and compete. It means a lot to be given the opportunity to show what we can do."

The Classical Academy sophomore Kenzie Fontana certainly did. Her area-best 82 was good for 11th entering the final day. Holy Family's Hailey Schalk led all with a 6-under 65.

"(Fontana) did pretty well," Titans coach Bob Gravelle said. "A goal for her was to finish in the top 10 and she is within range."

TCA is eighth out of 13 teams with a score of 325, well behind leader Colorado Academy (215).

It was the first time TCA qualified a team after being shut out in 4A. The Colorado High School Activities Association created the new 3A classification for schools with an enrollment of 881 or fewer. The 4A limit is 1,565.

"We were working so hard for years to reach the 4A tournament so having 3A really helped us," said TCA's Caitlin Solano (115). "There's a lot of good golfers here."

McCowan, Manitou Springs senior Erin Ihrig and Florence junior Taelyn Ovnicek all expected the state's small school programs to grow with athletes knowing they can compete against like-sized schools at state.

"You're not as intimidated as you are with the big schools," said Ihrig, whose 101 was second among area entrants.

Like most of the area's entrants, Ovnicek was a first-time state qualifier. Her nerves played a factor in her opening round (110).

She hopes to bounce back Tuesday and takes heart knowing that she could be a repeat state qualifier next spring.

"It's really exciting to get another chance, especially when you consider how far I have come (since her sophomore season)," Ovnicek said.