Aug 15, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorRiverton High School seniors Preston Ward and Aaron Nirider and junior Lars Becker are projected as the top three golfers for the Wolverines this year.
Ward is coming off a junior campaign where he won the Class 4-A West conference meet and finished 10th at the state meet in Riverton.
Nirider was second at conference to help the Wolverines win the conference title. Nirider ended sixth at the state tournament.
"Those are only three uperclassmen that we have," Riverton coach Lars Flanagan said. "We have a slew of sophomores. We have eight or nine of them that are scoring about the same."
Sophomores Oakley Hackleman and Isaiah Valerio will be playing in the varsity division Thursday and Friday at the Riverton Invitational.
"We have eight guys that are going to compete for the No. 4 or No. 5 spot and for the junior varsity spots," Flanagan said.
"It's nice that they have to go out and earn their spot."
The Wolverines opened fall practice Monday at the Riverton Country Club. Flanagan used the first two days as qualifying for the tournament.
"One of our weaknesses the last few years is that our golf team doesn't have depth," Flanagan said. "The first day in practice, you could go out there and say 'this is my first guy and this is my fifth guy.' That isn't the case this year."
Flanagan's assistant coaches are Matt Mortimore and Russ Holgate.
"My girls team is a veteran group," Flanagan said.
The seniors for the RHS girls are Whitney Aschenbrenner and Lincoln Horath. Junior Shaylee Cunningham and Kendra Miller round out the early roster.
"Lincoln was on the course a lot over the summer," Flanagan said. "She made some great strides over the summer with her swing. As with anybody, she has to learn how to score better, but she has the ability to do it."
Flanagan said Aschenbrenner's and Horath's experience should carry the RHS girls.
"They have played all the courses before," Flanagan said. "They known most of the girls that they have been playing with."
The RHS coach expects Miller to score well in her freshman season.
"Kendra is the first girl that I have had that has had a background in golf before she got into ninth grade," Flanagan said. "She worked hard over the summer to get better.
She is going to have some ups and downs."
In high school golf a team must field three girls for a team score.
"I would expect that our team score is going to get better as it the year moves along," Flanagan said. "This tournament (Riverton) might be a little shaky because they are still getting their swings underneath them."
Flanagan said the Wolverines have invited 16 teams to participate at the Riverton Invitational. The deadline for the other teams to sign up is Wednesday afternoon.
The golfers tee off in a shotgun start at 1 p.m. Thursday. The second day the golfers open play at 9 a.m.
Par at the Riverton Country Club is 72.
"Our course is always in nice shape," Flanagan said. "Our course is going to play a little difficult. Our greens are going to be a little quick, and our roughs are going to be a little longer."
The Class 4-A teams expected to be in the field in Riverton are Casper Natrona, Kelly Walsh, Evanston, Rock Springs, Green River and the Wolverines.
"Kelly Walsh is the team to beat in our state," Flanagan said. "It will be really nice to see how we match up with them. Kelly Walsh has a number of very good players. "
Powell and Jackson are the top teams from Class 3-A in the field. Powell is the defending Class 3-A state title last year.
"Some of the best teams might be the 3-A teams," Flanagan said.
RHS will compete in the Gillette Invitational next Monday and Tuesday.
The conference meet will be in Rock Springs. The 4-A state meet is slated for Casper Sept. 21-22.
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