The Pekin boys golf team didn’t want its season to end on a sour note.
After a disappointing fourth-place finish last week in the Mid-Illini Conference tournament, the Dragons achieved a huge goal Tuesday at the Class 3A Bradley-Bourbonnais Regional at Kankakee Elks Country Club.
Led by medalist Mason Minkel, Pekin finished third in the regional and qualified as a team for Monday’s Edwardsville Sectional at Sunset Hills Country Club.
Normal U-High (302), Normal Community (305) and Pekin (321) earned the team sectional berths. They were followed by Minooka (325), Normal West (330), Rock Island (336), Moline (354), Bradley-Bourbonnais (361) and Crete-Monee (429) in the regional team standings.
“We had three seniors who didn’t want to stop playing and our younger guys wanted to give them a chance to keep playing,” said Pekin coach Jeremy Crouch.
“We thought qualifying as a team for sectionals was a realistic goal. I’m glad the guys saw it through.”
Minkel shot even-par 72. The sophomore beat regional runner-up Brevin Knight of U-High by one stroke.
“I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Mason deserves all the accolades he gets,” Crouch said. “He works hard, and he challenges himself during the summer by playing in highly competitive tournaments.
“He’s been our No. 1 guy all year. He’s embraced it, and taken the reins of the team.”
Pekin junior Justin Taphorn tied for 12th at the regional with 80. Senior Ethan Sullivan (tie 17th, 83), sophomore Cooper Theleritis (tie 28th, 86), senior Brady Hilst (tie 38th, 92) and senior Jack Kuethe (tie 40th, 93) also played for the Dragons.
Qualifying for sectionals as a team for the second consecutive year was a particularly impressive feat for Pekin because powerhouse U-High moved up from Class 2A to Class 3A and landed in the Dragons’ regional.
“Having U-High in our regional meant one less team spot was open for sectionals,” Crouch said.
GIRLS GOLF: Half of the Pekin girls team qualified for the Class 2A sectionals.
Summer Dick and Madison Raines qualified as individuals at the regional hosted Wednesday by Pekin at Lick Creek Golf Course and will play Monday in the Champaign Central Sectional at the University of Illinois Orange Course in Savoy.
The top 10 golfers not on the three sectional qualifying teams at Lick Creek moved on as individuals. Dick’s 85 led the way. Raines shot 111 and won a two-golfer playoff by making a 30-foot putt on the first extra hole.
Pekin, which has just four golfers on its roster, finished fifth of nine teams in the regional.
“It was a good day for us. We were seeded to finish eighth,” said Dragons coach Chris Neville.
CROSS COUNTRY: The Pekin girls cross country team did something last Saturday at a meet that it had never done.
Four girls finished the 65th annual Peoria High Invitational at Detweiller Park in under 20 minutes. All seven Pekin runners ran a personal-record time.
“The biggest thing I try to remind our girls is that no one on the course does anything different than we do Monday through Friday. They train hard. So do we,” said Pekin coach Erika Gilmore.
“Races are about making the best of every day of training and taking care of yourself physically and mentally. I tell our girls to run smart, read the course, get around someone who is within a few strides reach, and continue to move up all three miles of the race.”
Paige Arseneau led the way for Pekin at Detweiller, finishing seventh in 17:49.7.
Alex Bassen (18:20.2), Emma Cox (19:57), Lily Wagemann (19:57.5), Olivia Wolf (20:16), Chloe Powell (20:39.2) and Elizabeth Deverman (21:02) also ran for the Dragons.
Pekin finished 14th of 26 teams.
The Pekin boys team also had a good meet at Detweiller. Brody Blackwell ran a personal-record 15:09.6 in placing 32nd and five of the Dragons’ next six runners either had a PR or season-record time.
“We’re continuing to move in the right direction in terms of our individual times and our spread,” said Pekin coach Cole Stoner. “I don’t think our team result at the meet (23rd of 33 teams) spoke to how well we ran.”
The Dragons’ next six runners behind Blackwell were Seth Kasinger (16:07.9), Jonny Blanchard (16:14.5), Jayden Tabb (16:38.9), Andrew Wolfe (16:48.8), Jeremy Leichtenberg (16:49.9) and Jackson Custer (17:21.8).
GIRLS SWIMMING: Standout Kelen McDaniels was out on a college visit, but the Pekin girls swimming and diving team still managed a sixth-place finish among nine teams last Saturday at the 21st annual Richwoods Midwest Invitational.
The Dragons’ Sami Curtis touched out Normal U-High’s Emma Stroh to take sixth place in the 500 freestyle. Curtis was clocked in 5:40.17. Stroh finished in 5:40.52.
Pekin’s Jaidlyn Sellers was fifth in the 100 backstroke in 1:05.69 and the Dragons’ Natalie Johnson swam personal-best times in all of her events.
The Dragons beat host Richwoods 109-76 on Wednesday.
Personal-bests were achieved by Pekin diver Katlyn Wooding (third, 144.65 points), Sellers in the 100 freestyle (first, :57.96), Lexi Jarvill in the 500 freestyle (second, 5:52.73) and Darri Stuber in the 200 individual medley (third, 2:44.84).
VOLLYBALL: Everybody got a chance to play Thursday for the Pekin volleyball team as the visiting Dragons defeated Canton 25-8, 25-21 in a Mid-Illini Conference match.
Brooke Sherwood (eight assists), Briona Beckham (six digs), Lauren Juergens (five kills), Olivia Driskell (three aces) were the statistical leaders for Pekin (17-8-1, 6-4).
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.