NORMAL — Charleston coach Randy Harpster said going into the Class 2A state boys' golf tournament at Weibring Golf Club that if his top four golfers all shot in the 70's, the Trojans should be in the mix for a trophy on Saturday. He was right.
For much of the day, the Trojans led the Class 2A state tournament, but a couple of late holes caught Charleston.
Still, the Trojans are in contention as the top four golfers all shot under 80 and Charleston finished the day with a 307, which was 23 strokes over par. The 307 put Charleston in a tie for third place with Champaign Central after the first day of competition.
"If we shoot another 307 tomorrow, we are right in the hunt," Harpster said. "Four kids in the 70's, that was our goal and we did that. I couldn't be more pleased to have a chance to win a state championship. That's all we can ask. To be in third place right now, that's incredible. We want more, but we are right where we want to be."
Mattoon's Nick Nguyen is in 18th with a four-over par 75.
Saturday is the final day of the tournament and Charleston's first tee time is at 9:24 a.m. on the front nine.
St. Viator leads the tournament with a 301 and 10 strokes separates the top team from the team sitting in sixth place. Normal University, the defending state champion, is in second place with a 305.
Harpster said his team could still go lower than a 307.
"I've said all year that our best score hasn't come yet and this team is capable of shooting a 297 to a 301," Harpster said. "I think we've got it in us to do that."
Preston Smith led Charleston with a one-over par 72. Smith had three bogeys in his first six holes, but then had back-to-back birdies. On the back nine, Smith had a birdie on hole No. 9 and didn't have a bogey. Smith is tied for ninth as an individual.
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"He was chipping in for a birdie, putting for a birdie. He played steady all day long and made great decisions all day long," Harpster said. "A great effort."
Keegan Gowin and Ben Lanman each shot a 78 and Robert Rardin finished with a 79 to round out the scoring. Zach Will had an 85 and Blake Wolfe shot an 89.
Nguyen had birdies on three of his first four holes to start the day, but started to hit some bogeys. He ended his day with a birdie to move into 18th place. He's only three strokes away from the top 10.
Wright in 11th
While Monticello struggled as a team at Prairie Vista Golf Course, Sages senior Noah Wright stayed in the mix for a medal individually with a 6 over par 78, good for a tie for seventh place heading into Saturday's final round.
Wright trails leader Tyler Bussert of Port Byron Riverdale by five strokes. The Sages are in 11th of 12 teams in the team competition, 28 strokes behind leader Riverdale.
LSA/DCS/Argenta-Oreana senior Dayton Pate was among the leaders at the turn after a birdie and two pars. But two bogeys and a double bogey on his 10th, 11th and 12th holes set him back. He finished with an 80, tied for 27th.
Tied with Pate is Luke Ludwig of Effingham St. Anthony, which is in seventh as a team — 19 strokes behind Riverdale.