PUEBLO - When it came time for the putt on the 18th green to fall for Erin Sargent, it nearly looked like she ordered the ball into the cup.
"I wasn't sure if it was going to make it," Sargent said. "I thought it was slowing down."
But it fell. And Sargent, as a result, was a state champion.
She shot a 5-over 149 on the tournament to come away with the Class 4A girls state title. She finished third a year ago and made a point to get back to state and come away with nothing short of a first-place finish.
"Last year the goal was to win it," she said. "Unfortunately, I wasn't able to pull through on that. This entire season, I've just been prepping myself for high-pressure situations."
And prep well, she did. She came into the day with a one-stroke lead over Colorado Academy's Caroline Jordaan. That quickly increased to a two-stroke lead after the first hole of the day. Sargent was able to sink a tough, downhill birdie putt. It wasn't until the round was over that the importance of that putt was fully realized.
"It was a positive start to the day," she said. "From there, I just had to keep a positive attitude going the whole round."
She sank another birdie on 7 before making three bogeys over the next five holes to slip back into the pack a little bit. When she bogeyed 15 and 16 and fell into a tie with Jordaan, the pressure started turning up.
"I definitely felt like my ball striking was becoming a little more iffy," she said. "I was having to rely more and more on my short game. But I wasn't paying attention to how tight it was until the last couple of holes."
And then things got a little interesting. Sargent missed the green on the par 3 17th hole and had to chip it close for a chance to save par. Jordaan made it on the green in one, but burned the edge on her birdie putt. So to the 18th they went all tied up.
Both players made the green in regulation and had a chance to make birdie. Jordaan's putt sat above the hole and she had to navigate the downhill slope. She put a stroke on it and Sargent watched as the putt just missed the hole.
"At that point, I knew I had to put a good stroke on it, know I knew the line and keep my head," Sargent said. "I thought Caroline definitely sank that putt."
But Sargent would sink hers and find the embrace of her parents as she could now claim a state championship.
Niwot's Claire McPeak notched a top-15 finish in the tournament, shooting 24-over for the two days. Fellow Cougar Keena Strope finished 68-over.
The Skyline duo of Grace Gunlikson and Audrey Gunlikson shot 39-over and 90-over respectively.
Frederick's Erin Baum was disappointed in her 67-over, but the sophomore was the first-ever qualifier from the school. Looking back at the experience, she knows that her appearance in the state tournament will always have an element of history behind it.
"It was awesome," Baum said. "I was really happy that I got here, although I didn't play my best, it was great to experience it."
With this year under her belt, she was able to get a better sense of what it takes to compete at a championship level.
"You have to not let nerves get to you," she said. "If you have a bad hole, you have to get over it. You can't play that bad hole over in your head the rest of the round."
Class 4A state championship
At Pueblo Country Club
Team scores — 1. Colorado Academy 468, 2. Cheyenne Mountain 520, 3. Rifle 546, 4. Northridge 558, 5. Golden 283, 6. Windsor 571, 7. Vista Peak 586, 8. Pueblo County 609.
Top individuals — 1. Erin Sargent, Silver Creek, 149; 2. Caroline Jordaan, Colorado Academy, 150; 3. Kelsey McKenna, Air Academy, 156; T4. Kacey Godwin, Colorado Academy, 157; T4. Kiselya Plewe, Dolores, 157; 6. Elly Walters, Rifle, 159; T7. Marin Halvorsen, Kent Denver, 161; T7. Masi Smith, Rifle, 161; T7. Sydney Prey, Golden, 161; T10. Regina Dillon, Cheyenne Mountain, 163; T10. Kellsey Sample, Palmer Ridge, 163.
Emily Walters, Rifle, 78; 5. Kiselya Plewe, Dolores, 79; 6. Sydney Prey, Golden, 80; 7. Masi Smith, Rifle, 81; T8. Kellsey Sample, Palmer Ridge, 82; T8. Marin Halvorsen, Kent Denver, 82; T8. Kacey Godwin, Colorado Academy, 82.
Other local results —
15. Claire McPeak, Niwot, 168
30. Grace Gunlikson, Skyline, 183
71. Erin Baum, Frederick, 211
72. Keena Strope, Niwot, 212
72. Erin Baum, Frederick, 108
84. Audrey Gunlikson, Skyline, 234