With state repeat within reach, Mitchell girls golf is set for title defense

May 31—MITCHELL — The quest for the Mitchell High School girls golf team to repeat as state champions comes down to 36 holes.

The Kernels will tee it up at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 3, at Hillcrest Country Club in Yankton in the Class AA state tournament, doing so as one of the favorites to take home both the individual and team championships.

Even with the added stakes, the mindset going into the last event of the season will be how the Kernels have gone into each of their 11 prior events.

"They know it's one tournament at a time," head coach Jeff Meyerink said, "They know each shot matters, and it does no good for them to get ahead of themselves and start trying to put a total on the season before it's done."

The totals Mitchell has accumulated this season have put the team in its current position heading into state. The Kernels have taken home eight team titles this season, including the Brookings Invitational on May 16 with a school-record team score of 305, and the Eastern South Dakota Conference championship on May 23, their third in the past four seasons. Overall, Mitchell has averaged a team score of 324, one stroke better than its scoring average heading into last year's tournament.

In seven of the team's eight victories, the Kernel golfers have also taken home individual titles. Senior standout Allison Meyerink put together another strong season to lead the team, winning five of the seven sweeps, and is tied for the best scoring average in the state (75). Maddie Childs is No. 3 in scoring average (77.73) and comes in off her first ESD title, and Quinn Dannenbring ranks ninth in Class AA (81.22) and won the Mitchell Invitational on May 10.

"Each girl that is out there for Mitchell, I can tell you honestly enjoys it," Jeff Meyerink said. "They love the sport, and they know they got to earn everything. They've all accepted the fact that if they put the time in, whatever happens after that is what's going to happen."

Meyerink has told his players to not think about what's going to happen at the state tournament in the week between the ESD tournament and Monday, and the Kernels are approaching it as another tournament.

As every golfer on the team has their own adjustments to work on ahead of state, the Kernels have practiced hitting pitch shots with short irons, as Hillcrest's bentgrass fairways might not make wedges into greens the best play. Course management is also key, as tree-lined holes will make accuracy off the tee a premium.

"You just have to limit the mistakes out there," Meyerink said. "Every green slopes back-to-front and you want to keep it below the hole. You can't afford to blade a chip and go over the green. The girls are going to have to put a flat-out grind on the course, but there's a lot of good players in the field."

Playing against teams such as Aberdeen Central and Watertown, who'll challenge Mitchell atop the leaderboard on Monday, has brought the Kernels to where they are now in preparation for the state meet. Meyerink will step down as head coach after state to concentrate on his Dakota Wesleyan golf duties full-time in the fall.

"It's been a great time at Mitchell, and I'm thankful for the opportunity," Meyerink said. "I'm excited for this chapter to really get going here at DWU, but none of this happens without Mitchell High School. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be the head coach for them."