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O'Fallon captures sectional team crown; Edwardsville's Johnson wins medalist

O'Fallon captures sectional team crown; Edwardsville's Johnson wins medalist

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SAVOY — Jaquelyn Whyte was so excited to greet her teammate off the 18th green Tuesday afternoon that she missed a step.

The O'Fallon High senior hit the deck hard, but before Whyte's teammates could rush to her aid, they heard her roaring laughter.

Nothing was going to stop Whyte from celebrating with her teammates one final time. 

Led by a trio of seniors, the O'Fallon Panthers captured the Class 2A Champaign Sectional girls golf tournament team title with a four-player score of 326 at the University of Illinois Golf Course.

"When you have every team south of Chicago out here and you win, that's pretty awesome," O'Fallon coach Chris Eddy said. "That's exciting for the girls."

It was the second sectional title in the past four seasons for the Panthers, who weren't the only Southwestern Conference representatives celebrating a title.

Class 2A Champaign Sectional tournament

Edwardsville's Nicole Johnson (center) celebrates with teammates after winning the Class 2A Champaign Sectional girls golf tournament medalist title Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at the University of Illinois Golf Course in Savoy, Ill. Paul Halfacre,

Edwardsville sophomore Nicole Johnson fired a blistering 3-under-par 69 to capture the medalist title by four shots. Johnson is the first Tigers player to win a sectional since Emilee Flaugher did it in 2013 and only the third since 2000. 

"She's just fantastic," Edwardsville coach Libby Koonce said. "To end your sophomore season on a 69, you can't ask for more than that. If we had got the opportunity to play at Hickory Point (for state), I have no doubts that she'd rock it there."

Also recording a top-10 individual finish was Mascoutah sophomore Sophia Florek, who tied for seventh with a 7-over 79.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 girls golf season ended with sectional tournaments. The Illinois High School Association originally did not have sectional tournaments planned but changed that Sept. 23 when it added sectional tournaments for both cross country and golf. 

Class 2A Champaign Sectional tournament

O'Fallon's Jaquelyn Whyte watches her shot during the Class 2A Champaign girls sectional tournament on Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at the University of Illinois Golf Course in Savoy, Ill. Paul Halfacre,

O'Fallon's trio of seniors — Chloe Davidson, Dylan Kirchoff and Whyte — were part of the team as freshmen when the Panthers grabbed the 2017 sectional title, which then was their first since 2002. 

"It feels different because it's our last time playing together as a team, but they all feel great," Davidson said.

Kirchoff led the Panthers with a 6-over 78, finishing sixth individually, while Davidson tied for 12th at 10-over 82. Playing in her final tournament with the Panthers, Whyte helped the team to the sectional title with a 14-over 86.

It was the first time this season Whyte's score counted toward the team score. 

"I've worked hard and it's paid off," said Whyte, who tied for 25th. "I'm proud of myself and I'm just proud of my team."

Sophomore Reagan Martin helped lead O'Fallon's team score with an 8-over 80, tying for ninth. 

"We're usually trying to get scores around the 77 and today we had scores in the 80s and 86 and today that was good enough," Eddy said. "I was happy that they held it together."

Heading into the final few holes, O'Fallon and Lockport Township flipped between the top two places in the team standings.

But Kirchoff said she and her teammates didn't spend their time watching the live scoreboard.

"I didn't know how close it was," Kirchoff said. "I just kind of played my own game and battled for my team."

For Johnson, the 3-under-par results not only was a personal best, it was a goal she had been chasing all season.

Hitting an eagle on her third hole of the day, a 321-yard par 4, really woke up Johnson. She birdied four holes and only had one bogey and a double bogey on a 328-yard par 4. 

Though it won't end with a state tournament appearance, Johnson was happy with how her season ended.

"A sectional title sounds pretty good," Johnson said. "I was just happy that I shot in the 60s."

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