Jackson secured a second-place finish at the Division I girls golf state tournament. Senior Cassie Pantelas and junior Landrie Grace led the way for Jackson, as they did all season, with scores of 147 and 154, respectively.
Coming down the back nine, the Jackson girls golf team was within reach of the state title that had eluded it for the past three seasons.
The drama was high and the pressure even higher, but the Polar Bears played some of their best golf of the weekend and entered the final few holes within shouting distance of defending champion Dublin Jerome.
Ultimately, a strong second day at the Division I state tournament wasn't enough and the Polar Bears had to settle for second place after finishing with a score of 323. Dublin Jerome tallied a two-day total of 313 for the title, rallying for the win after trailing first-day leader Rocky River Magnificat by three shots.
Senior Cassie Pantelas and junior Landrie Grace led the way for Jackson, as they did all season, with scores of 147 and 154, respectively. Pantelas was stellar on the second day of the tournament, shooting an 18-hole score of 71 to register the lowest overall score of any player, as well as the lowest two-day mark. Despite the disappointment of coming up short, Pantelas was proud of the way she and her teammates performed.
"We put our best foot forward going down there and second place came out of it, so you can't complain," Pantelas said. "Going down there was one of the best experiences of my life and I have been there all four years here. I tried not to take it for granted."
Pantelas and Grace took decidedly different approaches to the final round when it came to knowing where their team stood on the leaderboard.
"For me, it was the same as it always is for the final round," Pantelas said. “I told everyone I don't want to know where we're at, just let it play out how it will.”
Still, she knew entering the final few holes that the score was close because the parents watching the action were bracing themselves for the result of every shot and showing almost as much intensity as the golfers. Pantelas attributed her ability to focus on the task at hand to being a seasoned veteran of the postseason and her poise came into play three holes into the first round. Grace was struggling early in her round and was "almost in tears," but Pantelas was able to reassure her teammate and help Grace regroup.
Grace elected for the opposite approach to Pantelas in the final round and kept up on the scores as best she could while on the course.
"(Coach Teal) Harvey told me when I was about to hit my chip on No. 16, 'We're within strokes,'" Grace recalled. "I need to know or I freak out."
After hearing the good news from her coach, Grace nearly chipped in from off the green. By the time she reached the 18th green and her opponent missed a short putt, she thought the Polar Bears might have done enough to rally for the title.
The leaderboard said otherwise and Jackson settled for runner-up status, continuing a remarkable 12 months for the school's girls teams. Including the golf team's third-place finish at last year's state tournament, four different squads have reached the final four in the state. For Pantelas, the second-place result capped a four-year run of success, but in the aftermath of the final hole, her thoughts weren't on final score.
"For me, Louisa (Engelhardt) and Jess (Cassidy), it was more of, 'Oh my God, it's over,'" Pantelas said. "There was kind of just disbelief. I wasn't thinking if we won or lost, I was just thinking, 'Where's my team, I want to hug everyone.'"
Grace echoed Pantelas' thoughts on the senior class and said she was proud of the team's ability to succeed while facing lofty expectations from both within and without all season long. Even with one season left in her high school career, the diminutive junior was still upset at narrowly missing out on the first state title in program history.
"Honestly, I was really upset because this was our chance," Grace said. "Now, the seniors are leaving and they were big assets for us, so it's also sad."