Athletes have long way to go, short time to get there

Of all the local high school sports teams to miss three weeks of the season due to Hurricane Florence, perhaps none are feeling the impact more than the three-time reigning state champion St. James girls golf team.

Stepping up to Class 5A for the first time, the Lady Sharks were ready to make a splash at the top level. Instead, they returned to the links for a practice round Tuesday, the date of their final regular season match.

“We don’t have much time left and it’s kind of a bummer,” said St. James girls golf coach Denise Noll. “I think we were still the favorites to win it all (in Class 5A) when the season started. I don’t think we are now.”

Noll is one of the many local coaches coping with a drastically reduced schedule and a team that has not been sharpened by good competition. The Lady Sharks have only one match to prepare for postseason play.

“Our last match was supposed to be Tuesday against Carolina Forest, but we were able to push it back to Wednesday,” she said. “That’s all we have to get ready for the Lower State (Oct. 15) and State (Oct. 22-23). That’s huge. We missed two 36-hole tournaments, and that’s what prepares you for the two-day state tournament.”

Noll was pleased to see some of her players practicing on their own at Prestwick Country Club during the break, and senior two-time champion Smith Knaffle and freshman standout Adrian Anderson compete year-round. She just hopes her team can find its competitive edge in time for a rare four-peat.

“There’s a big difference between playing and competing. We’re going to try to get in some practice rounds at the Mid-Carolina Country Club, where the state tournament will be held. It’s a hilly course, the kind we don’t have at the beach, so hopefully we can get some work in and be ready.”

In other fall sports, local swim teams have even less time to prepare with the state championships set for this weekend in Columbia. Cross country teams have less than one month to get back in shape for the state meet on Nov. 3. Volleyball and girls tennis teams are planning region doubleheaders to catch up on their schedules before their state tournaments on Nov. 10.

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