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Private schools expected to dominate on the links

MHC GOLF PREVIEW - Central Catholic boys and St. Mary's girls are the front-runners
by: file photo, Centennial's Nick Chianello watches a tee shot fly through the air last season. He won the Mount Hood Conference district title as a freshman.

The private schools appear to be the teams to beat on the golf course this spring, as Central Catholic looks to defend its Mount Hood Conference boys golf title and St. Mary's tries to repeat on the girls side.

The Rams won five of the six regular season tournaments last year, and could do even better this year with the return of senior Kevin Showalter.

'Central Catholic is the hands-down favorite,' Barlow boys coach Randy Hurt said. 'It would be a huge upset if they didn't win every league match with the kids they have coming back.'

St. Mary's won last year's district girls tournament by almost 40 strokes and isn't showing signs of slowing down, while many other league foes graduated their top talent.

The girls will work twice as hard this season, changing to the format adopted by the boys several years ago. Rather than playing head-to-head, nine-hole duals, the girls will meet each Wednesday for an 18-hole showdown with everyone playing on the same course.

'That's the way golf is meant to be played,' Reynolds girls coach Vonnie Core said. 'When it comes to big invitationals and district meets, the kids won't be overwhelmed.

BOYS

Barlow tied Central Catholic at last year's district tournament and advanced to the state meet. The Bruins graduated their top scorer, but returns seniors Andy LeRoque and Max Babson. The Gresham boys team could also make some noise this spring with a couple veteran seniors in the lineup along with promising freshman Ryan Lile, who won the team's qualifier last week.

Centennial sophomore Nick Chianello returns to defend his individual title, after winning district by three strokes as a freshman.

'He's talented enough to do it again,' Centennial coach Ryan Ruuttila said. 'He's played a lot of quality tournaments over the summer, and he's just gotten bigger and better.'

David Douglas senior H.J. Childs is another top threat.

GIRLS

The Barlow girls could jump past several teams after settling for fifth place last year. The Bruins return five golfers, led by senior Megan Miller who took sixth at district last season.

'With all of that varsity experience, I would expect those girls to continue to play well,' first-year Bruins' coach Tom Starr said.

Gresham advanced to state with a tight group of varsity players last season, but three of those players have graduated. That leaves senior Emily Slayton, who led the Gophers with an eighth-place district effort last year.

A full season preview is published in the Saturday, March 10, issue of the Gresham Outlook.