Matthew Jonas / Longmont Times-Call
Junior Adara Pauluhn is aiming to get her scoring average down to the low 70s this spring.

LONGMONT — Following significant improvements in each of her two first prep seasons, Skyline’s Adara Pauluhn is ready to make another move up Colorado prep golf’s ladder.

Just a sophomore at last year’s 5A state tournament, Pauluhn finished tied for 25th. She placed 32nd as a freshman at the 2012 tournament.

She’s expecting a better performance but in order to place higher, Pauluhn knows she’ll have to score lower. So, the Falcons junior is focused entirely on her game and her score this season. Thus her placement, she says, will reflect her improved play.

“I’m a junior now so I’ve had two years under my belt now and I know what to expect from all the tournaments,” Pauluhn said. “Ultimately, my goal is to lower my score. If I do that, whatever happens at the end will take care of itself.”

Pauluhn has thrived amid the relatively low pressure of being a state-caliber underclassman over the past two years. Her junior season, a major recruiting period for a prep player seeking a Division-I golf scholarship, will be more pressure-packed.

In the hope of landing a college scholarship, Pauluhn has been working with a college recruiter and practicing as much as possible throughout the difficult winter. Despite all she has on her plate, having seen her potential after cracking the top 25 at state as a sophomore gives Pauluhn confidence that she can accomplish her many, lofty goals.

“I’ve been moving up since freshman year,” Pauluhn said. “Knowing that I can drop my score and place higher every year just makes me want to work harder and want it more.”

A student at Niwot, Pauluhn averaged 77 strokes last season and said she wants to get her stroke average down to the low 70s.

As a team, the Falcons have added a new assistant coach in Mickey Leyba, who is a kickboxing and Muay Thai specialist. With Leyba’s arrival comes a new weight training program that the Falcons, who have won five 5A state titles since 2000 but haven’t qualified a team since placing third in 2010, hope can increase their overall performance.

“Strength is a huge part of it. We’re doing a lot of core,” Pauluhn said. “Overall, being stronger will help a lot with distance, control, not getting tired and everything like that.”

Behind Pauluhn and a few other state hopefuls, Falcons head coach Meredith Nelson hopes increased numbers will give the program depth to field a team at state once again.

A combination team that draws at least one participant from each school in the St. Vrain Valley School District this season, the Falcons have 30 girls out for golf. Among them, Nelson said Silver Creek sophomore Erin Sargent was an alternate selection for the state tournament last season. She showed state-level potential again this summer when she shot a 77 during the Longmont Junior City golf tournament.

“We’re looking at Adara to make it along with Erin and then maybe one more so we can send a team to state,” Nelson said. “Hopefully the increased interest this year will help us be victorious in our league and at state.”

Dawson School sophomore Claire McPeak, who averaged 98 strokes last season, could also drop her score low enough to qualify for state.

While the Skyline program continues to draw its strength from its many contributing schools, that strength is being threatened as schools throughout the district are beginning to add their own girls golf programs. In the spring of 2015, Erie High School will unveil its own girls golf program and Nelson said there has been talk of Niwot High adding girls golf to its athletics lineup.

Like Pauluhn’s immediate need to impress college programs, the Falcons may be looking at one of the last seasons they’ll get to draw from their traditional combined strength.

“I guess that makes this a big year for all of them to work together and hopefully put a team together for state,” Nelson said. “Pretty soon many of them could be opponents.”

Contact BoCoPreps.com Writer Brad Cochi at cochib@dailycamera.com