When Olentangy Berlin junior Leila Raines hits her opening shot from the No. 1 tee of The Ohio State University Gray Course, something that’s slated to happen today around 10:40 a.m., it’ll be historic.
Raines is certainly no stranger to competing in the state showcase, but it’ll be a first for her school, which opened its doors for the first time just a few short months ago.
“I’m very honored to be the first state qualifier in Olentangy Berlin history,” Raines said. “The only thing that would top that would be to be Berlin’s first state winner. That’s my goal.”
Raines, who finished second overall with a 72 at the Division I district tournament earlier this month at Cooks Creek, will be taking aim at a state title for the second time. As a freshman at Olentangy, she qualified for states by firing a 72 to nab medalist honors at the 2016 district tournament at The Links at Groveport. She went on to shoot a 74 at the state showcase, which was shortened to an 18-hole tournament due to weather. The 74 was the lowest round among the 12 state-qualifying individuals.
Raines said success this time around will come down to her ability to adjust.
“After playing at much longer yardages on the boys team all season, it has been a tougher transition playing at the shorter distances than I thought,” she said. “I was used to hitting my longer clubs and I’ve had to dial in my wedge game in order to keep shooting low scores.”
Raines won’t be the only area athlete chasing low scores over the course of the next two days, either.
Olentangy Orange’s girls team, which finished second at districts and qualified as a team for the fourth straight season, will be shooting for its third state championship in three years. The Pioneers took top honors in 2016 after firing a combined 311 and came back the following year with a two-day total of 602 — a mark a full 10 strokes better than second-place Centerville’s 612.
Seniors Riley Dean and Ashley Au, who have been a part of all four state-qualifying teams, led the Pioneers at the recent district tournament, finishing tied for third with 73s.
Natalie Au (84), Natalia Sompolvorachai (85) and Sydney Krupp (102) also chipped in.
Over on the boys’ side, Olentangy Liberty’s Grant Smeltzer, just a sophomore, will be competing in the state tourney for the second straight year. He was a part of last fall’s state runner-up squad, but, with the Patriots finishing fifth at districts — missing the cut by eight strokes — he’ll be the school’s only representative this time around.
Smeltzer carded a 71 at districts, earning medalist honors by winning a playoff hole with Central Crossing’s Caleb Davern. His state tournament is slated to start on The Ohio State University Scarlet Course’s No. 1 tee at 10:40 this morning.