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Just when it seemed safe to bestow upon St. Mary's another state championship in boys golf, someone stepped up and, essentially, said not so fast.
St. Mary's is attempting to become only the third school in state history to capture four straight crowns, but cross-town rival Cascade Christian served notice Tuesday that it won't be easy.
The Challengers won the battle at Centennial Golf Club, becoming the first team in two years to defeat the Crusaders for a one-day round, but St. Mary's claimed the war, winning the overall title in the Class 3A/2A/1A District 6 tournament.
St. Mary's, led by individual champion Dylan Wu, who shot a 1-over-par 73, had a two-day score of 597, eight strokes better than Cascade Christian. It was the Crusaders' fourth straight district championship.
St. Mary's coach Ryan Allred made note of his team's best round of the season on Monday, a 292, then said, "And we needed it."
On Tuesday, Cascade Christian's top three players combined to shoot even par, led by Max Davis' 70, en route to a 301. St. Mary's score was 305.
At state last year, the Crusaders won by 77 strokes to set a record for margin of victory and returned everyone from that team.
"That being said," said Allred, "we didn't have anyone who was nearly as stiff of competition as Cascade is playing right now. I'm not chalking it (the state title) up just yet because of Cascade Christian. I'm excited about it because it's fun to have competition. It's gonna give the guys something to think about all week. We've got motivation because of the hometown team right here in the valley."
The top two teams and top five individuals qualified for state, which is Monday and Tuesday at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis. No individuals from teams other than the top two cracked the first five.
Cascade Christian's No. 2 and 3 players, Jake and Ben Quast, each shot 73, and Nash O'Hara rounded out the scoring with an 85.
"The kids are just awesome," said Challengers coach Jerry Johnson. "They've worked so hard to get this far, and I'm just so proud of them."
He wasn't surprised by the performance.
"No," said Johnson, "this is the time to do it."
Wu didn't appear to be in danger of being overtaken after his best round of the season on Monday, a 66, staked him to a five-shot lead over Jake Quast and a six-shot advantage over his brother, Josh Wu.
But Josh Wu, a sophomore, made up four strokes in the first six holes to get his senior brother's attention.
Players started on the 10th hole to accommodate other play at the course, and Dylan Wu had two bogeys in the first five holes and parred two easy birdie holes in that stretch.
If Monday was his "premiere ball-striking" round, as he called it, Tuesday was a grind.
"Today was a little different story," said Dylan Wu, the defending state champion who is headed to Northwestern. "I had some bad course management in the beginning."
Birdies on his seventh and eighth holes and a near-birdie on the ninth righted the ship.
"Going to the front nine, I was kind of happy-ish with my game," he said. "I came back a little."
His closest pursuer, his brother, was five back at the turn, got within three a few holes later but couldn't make up the ground.
"He wasn't going super low, so I didn't feel that much pressure," said Dylan Wu. "He was making good putts, he just made some bad bogeys. I think if you could combine my driving with his putting, we could have shot 66."
Josh Wu had a solid tournament, shooting 71 Tuesday to back up an even-par opening round. He was one shot ahead of third-place Jake Quast.
"Josh is playing really well," said Allred.
Tom Thorndike (80) and Jeremy Wu (81), Josh's twin, finished the scoring for St. Mary's.
TEAM SCORES — St. Mary's 597, Cascade Christian 605, Illinois Valley 836. Incomplete: Rogue River, Triad, Lakeview.
TOP FIVE INDIVIDUALS — 1, Dylan Wu, SM, 66-73—139; 2, Josh Wu 72-71—143; 3, Jake Quast, CC, 71-73—144; 4, (tie) Ben Quast, CC, 73-73—146, Max Davis, CC, 76-70—146.
ST. MARY'S (597) — Dylan Wu 66-73—139, Josh Wu 72-71—143, Tom Thorndike 77-80—157, Jeremy Wu 77-81—158.
CASCADE CHRISTIAN (605) — Jake Quast 71-73—144, Ben Quast 73-73—146, Max Davis 76-70—146, Michael Clark 84-Nash O'Hara 85.
ILLINOIS VALLEY (836) — Tyus Tree 102-92—194, Bryce Gardenhire 99-96—195, Eric Householder 102-111—213, Gus Whicheloe 119-Tyler Nolan 115.
ROGUE RIVER (Inc.) — Andrew Mengerhausen 113-130—243, Ben Davis 127-132—259.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org