FARMINGTON — Aztec senior Brooke Raney has hopes of improving on her third-place finish in the 4A golf state tournament this year, but first she will see plenty of competition in District 1-4A.
The spring golf season tees off Tuesday in Cortez, Colo., at Conquistador Golf Course. Raney, an Eastern New Mexico University commit, already earned all three qualifying legs required to qualify for the state tournament during the fall season, but, to get the entire team to state this year, she will look to help the rest of the Lady Tigers pick up a third qualifying leg.
“Brooke has been shooting in the 70s and low 80s. I know she is working every day with Tom McClurg at Hidden Valley to get those scores down,” said Aztec head coach Don Greenwood. “I don't want her to put a lot of pressure on herself or anything but, individually, I think she could have a pretty good shot at state this year.”
To win a district title, Raney will have to get past Kirtland Central junior Darmika Frank, who placed second in the district last spring.
“I am looking for Brooke and Darmika to be pretty much head and head all year. They push each other and have good competition,” Greenwood said. “Kirtland has a pretty good girls' team so we will see what pans out. They are the favorite in district.”
Kirtland Central has already picked up all three qualifying legs as a team and Lady Broncos' head coach Stephen Williams has high hopes for his team when they reach the state tournament in Las Cruces on May 13.
“We have a pretty balanced squad. They all shoot similar numbers,” Williams said. “Some teams in the state get a jump on us with the warm weather down south, like Deming, but I think we will be solid and we can shoot some good numbers.”
Like Greenwood, Williams is excited to watch Frank and Raney go toe-to-toe this season.
“Darmika is very driven this year. She wants to win it bad,” Williams said.
Coaches from around the county are also intrigued by the competition the two will provide each other this year.
“Raney is very good, but so is Frank. It should be a toss up between the two of them,” said PV head coach Floyd Kurley.
Both No. 2 golfers on Aztec and Kirtland Central are contenders, too.
Rachel Marquez, an Aztec junior, has also qualified for state already. She consistently shoots in the low to mid-80s, Greenwood said.
“I have a lot of respect for the girls on Aztec. It is going to be a battle to win the district team title this year,” Williams said.
Kirtland Central junior Aubri Blueeyes is also expected to make noise this year.
Next week's tournament at Conquistador will provide an early look at what the girls may be able to do at state because the course is similar to New Mexico State University's, where the state tournament will be held, Greenwood said.
“Hopefully, we can do well there and get that third leg so we can start making all of our travel plans for Las Cruces,” Greenwood said.
Kurley is without a full team at Piedra Vista this year, but senior Miel Johnson has already earned her qualifying legs for the state tournament.
“Miel is very capable. She has the potential to do very well,” Kurley said. “She just needs to get more confident in her play and execute the shots. She has all the materials to do so.”
Kurley's only other varsity golfer is junior Kalie Alley.
“I am planning on working with the younger girls more this year to get them ready for next year,” Kurley said.
Farmington High's team is led by senior Destiny Cochrane, who is consistently shooting in the mid-90s right now.
Juniors Francine Briones and Halie Hutson will also compete on the varsity level.
Lady Scorpions' coach Stephanie Jaquez is also excited about the development of freshman Patience Anaya as she works in junior varsity.
“Anaya is already winning JV tournaments and I am proud of that,” Jaquez said. “To have someone so young and learning in her first year is quite an accomplishment.”
Jaquez is also happy to have Briones and Hutson this spring.
“Briones does volleyball, so we don't have her in the fall. She is promising and will have a good year next year as a senior,” Jaquez said. “Hutson is a former softball pitcher. She is excelling and will be right there competitively as a senior as well next year.”
John Livingston can be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.