Prep golf: Roane County still favorites for Class AA state title
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Class AA dynamic at the State High School Golf Tournament provides an interesting take on two competitive days at one of West Virginia's most challenging tracks.
The 36-hole event that begins Tuesday on Oglebay Resort's Robert Trent Jones par 71 course features a heavy favorite (Roane County) and two teams (Poca and Scott) separated by 40 miles and a couple of transfers.
The defending champion Raiders will be hard to contain in their quest for back-to-back Class AA titles, although Ritchie County defeated Roane in the regional.
Poca will be hard-pressed to overcome either the Raiders or Rebels, but it's the format that keeps the Dots as contenders.
Until 2009, State Tournament teams would have five players compete with the highest score thrown out. For the sixth consecutive year, no more than four players can participate for each school with just three scores counted.
Senior Travis Covert and sophomores Alex Hamrick and David Scragg give Poca a fighting chance at moving past second place where it has finished at the State Tournament the last three years.
Depth is not a strength of Coach Doug Smith's team, but its top three is in the mix.
"It makes a huge difference, because we have three solid scorers," said Covert, who quit baseball to focus on golf. "It does put a lot of pressure on our three to perform, but we've done it all year. We're kind of used to it."
In the three Callaway Junior Tour High School Series in which Poca competed - Lewisburg Elks Invitational, Parkersburg Invitational and Capital City Classic at Big Bend - the Dots finished third, sixth and first respectively.
"The kids have to play well both rounds, it's as simple as that," Smith said, "if we want to have a chance to win a state championship."
Roane and Scott are two of the deepest Class AA teams in this week's tournament, but only four can play.
"Every match we've played, as far as big matches, they've all been right there," Smith said.
Roane's roster includes defending Class AA medalist Alston Spears, sophomore twin brothers Camden and Cole Moore and senior Hunter Simmons - all of whom played in last year's State Tournament.
The Skyhawks, who finished fifth last year, are led by returnee Sterling Chafin, as well as Aaron Grant and brothers Evan and Jonathan Butcher - Poca transfers who add intrigue to the friendly rivalry with the Dots. Evan Butcher played for Poca in the State Tournament last year.
"It was pretty interesting," Covert said. "If they would've been on our golf team, it would've made us that much more solid. Stuff happens and we managed to get through it and we beat them in the regional."
Poca has been close three straight years, finishing second by three strokes in 2011 and 2012, and by five in 2010.
"Like I told them last year when they handed me the runner-up trophy, I said I don't want the thing," said Smith, who is in his 28th season as coach at Poca. "I want the other one you're holding there. I hate being second. Like they say, it's the first loser. I want to win the big trophy for the kids, reward them for what they've done."
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THE CHASE FOR Class AA medalist comes down to a handful of players, including one of the longest hitters in the field - Ritchie County senior Sydney Snodgrass.
A girl has never been medalist in any class, but Snodgrass - who won the West Virginia Women's Amateur this past summer - will be playing in her third State Tournament. She earned All-State last year by finishing in a tie for seventh, and was 10th in 2010. The top eight players and ties earn All-State.
The Rebels, who won the Class AA state title in 2010 and 2011 - her freshman and sophomore seasons - beat Roane County by three strokes in the Region 1 championship.
Of the All-State players last year, four are in this year's field - Spears (medalist in 2012), Ike Judy of James Monroe (5th), Snodgrass (T7) and Cam Moore of Roane (T7).
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SISSONVILLE senior Taylor Schmeck makes is first appearance at the State Tournament after shooting a 77 in the Class AA Region 4 championships at Big Bend Golf Course last week.
Schmeck is the first Indian golfer to qualify for the State Tournament since Matt Sisson in 2007. Sisson shot a 167 to finish 13th that year.
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GRAFTON (2005, '06) and Ritchie County (2010, '11) are the only Class AA teams to win back-to-back titles in their division since the tournament was separated into three classes in 2002. They also are the only teams to win Class AA three times since then.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.