Evan Thompson / The Record — South Whidbey senior Ryan Wenzek is the lone returning state qualifier for the boys team.

Evan Thompson / The Record — South Whidbey senior Ryan Wenzek is the lone returning state qualifier for the boys team.

Small turnout for returning state champions, runner-up changes expectations | SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW

Turnout is low for South Whidbey’s girls and boys teams despite a high level of success in the 2017 state championships.

The girls team, which won the 1B/2B/1A state golf championships for the first time in school history in 2017, has only six girls signed up to play, though five players are all that are needed for varsity scoring.

The boys team that finished second in the state has about 10 players, down from around 20 this past season. It typically has between 15-20 golfers.

Garth Heggenes, head coach of the girls team, is optmistic that its core of returning veteran players — senior Kolby Heggenes and juniors Emma Leggett and Alyssa Ludtke — will provide the stability needed to continue the Falcons’ streak of dominance that also included a second place finish in 2016.

“As far as repeating for the state championship, I think it is a possibility, but there is a lot of work to be done,” Heggenes said. “I know the girls playing on the team are going to work hard and we will take it one step at a time.”

Leading the girls is Heggenes, a two-time state runner-up.

Heggenes, Garth Heggenes’s daughter, is a three-sport athlete who also competes in volleyball and basketball. She played in junior tournaments over the summer, but did not get in as much practice as some of her peers across the state who just play golf.

She knows what it’s going to take to win a state title in her fourth and final attempt.

“I really need to work on certain weaknesses of my game,” Kolby Heggenes said. “I feel that if I can improve my short game, then I can lower my scores enough to possibly compete with some of the better players.The girl that won last year (Davenport’s Kaysa Danke) will be a senior…plus you never know who has improved their game or if someone new will show up.”

Leggett and Ludtke also qualified for the 1A bi-district championships in 2017, but fell short of state. Both will take on a far more important role after the Falcons lost state qualifiers Emily Turpin and Riley Yale to graduation.

“We have a strong group coming back with Kolby, Emma and Alyssa and I expect those girls will take on some of the leadership as well as improve their game,” Garth Heggenes said.

One putt was all that kept South Whidbey junior Gabe Jacobson-Ross from making it to state in 2017.

He hopes it won’t come down to that close a call this season.

“That’s the plan,” Jacobson-Ross said. “That sucked.”

Jacobson-Ross is one of three returning staters expected to lead a Falcon boys team that finished second in the state in 2017. Senior Ryan Wenzek, a state qualifier, and junior Brent DeWolf are the other two. Three varsity spots are up for grabs.

“Being part of that group that got second was pretty sweet,” Wenzek said. “It’s a good momentum into this year. I know as a team, we probably won’t do as well this year. But, individually, I’m feeling I can place top 10 this year.”

Head coach Steve Jones said about half the team is new to the sport. Developing their skills, along with the veterans, will be the focus.

“I want everybody who is a returner to improve,” Jones said. “I’m just looking for improvement. If that gets them to state, then that’s great.”

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