MUNCIE — In an autumn filled with uncertainty, where the specter of the coronavirus pandemic has been hanging over every aspect of fall sports like an ominous storm cloud ready to explode, the girls golf teams of the area were the canaries in the coal mine -- the first athletes to step onto the field of competition.
In June and July, there was concern the season would ever start and, as the meets began in late July and early August, the imminent cancellation of the season seemed to be a matter of when, not if.
Prior to the season, Daleville senior Emma Allen — who lost her spring season as manager of the Broncos boys golf team — asked coach Joe Rench what the chances were there would be a girls golf season.
“One of our first practices, we were on the driving range and I asked Joe ‘Do you think we’ll have a season’, and he said ‘No,’” she recalled. “I started crying, obviously. Now that it’s here, I try to think more forward and pray that we would have it, and we did.”
Yet, area teams have managed to sidestep the health threats that are present on a daily basis and have not only been successful in putting together some semblance of a season, they are on the verge of completing the regular season and beginning the postseason tournament.
The Broncos golf team celebrated Allen and Sara Cukrowicz on Monday with a 188-198 senior night win over Alexandria on a night when players and coaches from both teams were thrilled to still be playing.
“It means a lot more, now that we’re here being able to play and not having to worry about next week or the week after because (sectional is) this Saturday,” Allen, who earned medalist honors with a 41, said.
“Had senior night early but it all worked out,” Alex coach Bruce Johnson said. “Thank God it’s an outdoor sport, and we can come out here and play. The girls, I really hate to see it end. It’s such a fun group of kids. When they get on the bus, even if we get our butts kicked, it’s still fun.”
The Broncos will play in the Muncie sectional on Saturday on their home course at Crestview Golf Club and hope to advance to regional for the third straight year as a team.
Alexandria senior Kelsey Rhoades was the low Tigers player with a 42 and shared similar sentiments with Allen.
“I’m very grateful to have had our season because I would have been bummed out if we hadn’t had it because we have such a fun group of peeps,” Rhoades said. “We missed our spring season, so coming in we didn’t really know. But I’m glad we had it because we’ve had a lot of fun.”
Behind Allen, freshman Addy Gick scored a 48, sophomore Katie Denney shot a 49 and sophomore Landrea Arnold added a 50 to complete the Broncos scoring. Although a 52 was not Cukrowicz’s best day, she is grateful to have completed her senior season, her second with Allen and Rench.
“This group of girls has worked so hard to improve so much, even during the winter when we were doing stuff in the gym,” Cukrowicz said. “It’s been crazy, so much better than we thought it would be.”
Junior Chloe Cuneo had the second-lowest Tigers score with a 49, followed by seniors Gracyn Hosier with a 52 and Emma Howe at 55. Junior Jordyn Rardin shot a 58.
Allen and Cukrowicz asked to play their final home regular season round together, so they were paired with Cuneo. After finishing their round, they shared an embrace with Rench and then again with their teammates behind the ninth green.
“I was trying not to cry because Emma was crying,” Cukrowicz said.
Allen has been a part of three conference and one Delaware County championship, advanced to regional twice, was all-Mideastern Conference four years and all-county three times.
“She’s had one of the best careers a Daleville golfer has ever had. I can’t see anything any better,” Rench said.
“Senior night for Emma and Sara,” Rench added, reading a tweet he had sent prior to the match. “Their successes have been what our Daleville program is all about.”
While the Broncos will begin postseason play at home Saturday, Alexandria will wait until Monday to play in the highly competitive Noblesville sectional at Harbour Trees.