CARBONDALE — It wasn't pretty, but the Class 4A girls golf state tournament concluded at River Valley Ranch Tuesday with a couple of repeat champions.
The Cheyenne Mountain Indians claimed their third straight team title while Jefferson Academy's Jennifer Kupcho repeated as individual champion.
Kupcho claimed the title after an impressive round of 3-under par while grouped with Cheyenne Mountain's Kylee Sullivan and Silver Creek's Erin Sargent. Coming into the final round, Kupcho was sitting at 1-under while Sullivan trailed by three strokes with Sargent right behind her at four back.
The course may have been more difficult this time around, but to Kupcho the feeling of winning was no different than last year.
"It was a little different atmosphere this year with the rain," Kupcho said. "I was hitting everything pretty close. I left a few birdie putts on the lip on the back nine."
If there was any indication that each of the three were hungry for an individual title, it showed on the approach shots on the first hole. They all put their balls within 12 feet of the hole, but each two-putted for par.
Sargent and Kupcho managed the first birdies of the round as they took advantage of the manageable length of the second hole, a par five. All the while, Sullivan maintained a consistent game, keeping her approach shots close enough to the pin for chances at birdie. But the weather delays wreaked havoc on her game in the long run.
"It was a long round," Sullivan said. "Fatigue sets in and your mind starts running. I struggled the most with keeping my head in the spot with that long of a round."
Sullivan remained steady through the first six holes, but faltered for a bogey on seven, giving Kupcho some breathing room, not that she needed it. Birdies on five, seven and eight had her at two-under par for the tournament. And that's when the weather intervened.
Heavy rain and lightning forced the players off the course for a bout a half hour. Once the lightning cleared, the players were able to return to the course and finish the round. Kupcho kept up her strong play after the delay, going even on the back nine.
As a team, the Indians were able to snag a five-stroke lead on Monday and carried that momentum over into Tuesday as they increased that lead to as many as 14, before finishing at 67-over, five strokes better than the Colorado Academy Mustangs.
"At one point, we were up 14 and seemed like a foregone conclusion," Cheyenne Mountain coach Bill Paulson said. "The next thing I see, we're up eight after the rain delay, then seven. It got more dramatic than I wanted it to."
The team title marks the ideal ending for Paulson who is retiring as coach of the Indians. Cheyenne Mountain will look to replace a man who has built the program into a state-wide powerhouse. He made a point of not telling his team how much it meant to him, but this championship was clearly special.
"I'll never forget it," he said, wiping away tears. "Never."