High School Sports

Gardner Edgerton freshman takes honors as Shawnee Mission East wins team 6A golf title

For about two hours Monday afternoon, Gardner Edgerton freshman Mia Tovkach sat in front of the leaderboard at the Class 6A golf tournament. She waited for the final scores to roll in at Terradyne Country Club, munching on chips as she watched to see if her round of 77 would stand as the day’s lowest.

Finally, the last group’s scores were tallied and written on the leaderboard, and Tovkach knew for sure she had won individual medalist honors. Garden City’s Danielle Gaspar finished second with a 78.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to win,” said Tovkach, whose lone birdie was on the par 5 No. 11, her second hole of the round.

She was one of three golfers to shoot below 80 on a day that had wind gusts as high as 43 mph.

Shawnee Mission East won the team title with a 341, 22 shots better than second place Washburn Rural. Blue Valley West shot a 373 for third.

“Today it was kind of funny,” Gardner Edgerton coach Amy Vanrheen said. Tovkach “ really thought she needed to beat the girl (Topeka’s Rachel Stous) who beat her (at regionals). That was her philosophy. But there’s a lot of other good golfers out here.

“It was kind of neat that she doesn’t understand the big picture of how much talent there is and how big of a deal it is. She played awesome.”

Tovkach is a consistent golfer, but when she made the turn at 3-over, she was irked.

“To her, that’s a loss,” Vanrheen said. “I loved it that she turned with that score, and she’s very competitive and she finished even though she didn’t think she had a chance.”

SM East was 10-0 in tournaments this season, a first in coach Ermanno Ritschl’s 20 seasons.

“Washburn (Rural) was on our heels all the time,” said Ritschl, whose team finished second in 2014 and won in 2012. “We have a nice rivalry with them. It was a tough day. These scores, 80 and below, were excellent.”

SM East’s Jessica Parker, who finished fourth with an 80, added: “We did have a lot of pressure. We were told multiple times that we were favorites to win this.”

Washburn Rural had a three-shot lead at the turn.

Three of SM East’s top four golfers finished in the top 10. Haley Bell finished seventh with an 84 — after shooting a 12 on the par 4 No. 5.

“She came back and was strong,” Ritschl said. “Some people would fold under that.”

“It was really rough,” Bell said. “But I told my parents before we came out here that I would keep my emotions in check and I wouldn’t give up. I was really proud of that.”

Blue Valley West’s third-place finish was the best in school history, and it came in coach Aaron Anderson’s first season. A longtime football coach, he has been the boys golf coach.

“This is a great group of kids, great senior leadership. We won the EKL, we won our regionals.”

Molly Saporito, Blue Valley West’s No. 4 golfer at regionals, won a three-person playoff to finish a team-best eighth with an 89.