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Cloquet boys drive to State six-peat

Not surprisingly, the Cloquet High School boys golf team has repeated as Section 7AA champions, with medalist Lance Sayler leading the way. The team will now play in the Minnesota state high school golf championship at the Ridges at Sand Creek golf course in Jordan, Minnesota, June 11-12. It is the sixth time the Cloquet team has won the section crown since 2018.

As has been the mantra all season, the Lumberjacks relied on a balanced team approach to winning the section. Cloquet's varsity players this season are Sayler, Blair Chartier, Karson Young, Anders Gunelson, Collin Young and Cooper Ellena. Six players comprise a team, with the top four scores counting towards the team title. Throughout the year at different courses, various players combined for the top four positions.

Both the girls and boys Section 7AA meets were held, once again, at The Quarry at Giants Ridge golf course in Biwabik, Minnesota, May 29-30. Both days were sunny and comfortable, but the second day was very windy, causing players' scores to rise by about 10 strokes on average.

At The Quarry, all six Cloquet players were in the top 14 positions, with Sayler taking first. The junior was one stroke better than Hermantown's Holdyn Evjen, with two-day totals of 151 and 152, respectively. Cloquet finished first with a team total of 628, Hermantown 644, Hibbing 664, Rock Ridge 672 and Duluth Denfeld 728. Other Cloquet individual placing were Karson Young (third), Blair Chartier (sixth), Anders Gunelson (ninth), Cooper Ellena (12th), and Collin Young (14th).

Sayler shot a sparkling 1 under par 71 on the first day.

"I knew Day 1 might be a good putting and scoring day for me when on hole No. 2, I had about a 12-foot sharp breaking putt for par and made it," the medalist said. "Then my tee shot on the next hole, a par 3, ended up about a foot away."

On Day 2, after 10 holes, Sayler had a four-stroke lead over Hermantown's top golfer. After 16 holes, they were tied.

"I made a couple of mistakes, and Holdyn capitalized," Sayler said.

The next hole, No. 17, is a par 3 and both leaders missed the green. They hit decent chip shots, but then missed putts for par. That meant they were still tied going into 18, a par 4 with a stiff dogleg left.

"I made about a 20-foot birdie putt ... Holdyn lipped out his birdie putt," Sayler said. "Took me a second to realize that I was section champ by one stroke. Very exciting!"

Sayler got his start golfing at a young age when his dad brought out a set of clubs from the garage and brought him to the Black Bear driving range to try hitting balls.

"After a few swings I was sold. I loved it," Sayler said.

He cut his golf teeth at the Pine Hill golf course in Carlton. "I often played by myself, but it was perfect for me to learn different shots and skills required to shoot low scores."

Coach Aaron Young called Lance a grinder. "He's one of the first to get to practice and the last to leave. It's nice to see it paying off."

All six Cloquet players are now members of the Cloquet Country Club, where they conduct their daily practices.

Only Gunelson and Ellena are seniors, the rest are juniors, and most have played in the state tournament several times, so expectations are high for the entire team.

Coach Aaron Young gets all players yardage books to help them manage the Jordan course. They'll go down this week for a team recognition dinner and practice round for state qualifiers. They've played other sectional champs several times this year, including Totino Grace and Holy Family Schools. Those schools, along with Cloquet, are the likely Class AA favorites.

Girls take third

On the girls side, Cloquet finished third at sections behind Rock Ridge and Hermantown.

"We were competitive on the first day with Abbi Steinert and Addison Johnson well-positioned for state tournament berths," said CHS girls golf coach Andrew Miller. "Unfortunately, we had some holes get away from us on Day 2 with the wind and tougher playing conditions, so we missed having state qualifiers."

Team members in 2024 were senior twin sisters, Abbi and Juli Steinert, sophomores Adison Johnson and Kourtney Kavanaugh, and freshman Maiya Jakubek. In the section meet, Johnson finished 14th, Abbi Steinert 15th, and Juli Steinert 18th, for top 20 finishers.

A tournament highlight was Juli Steinert's eagle 3 on a par 5. She made a 60-yard shot from the fairway.

"Both seniors did a nice job of leading this crew, and I was even more proud of how they handled themselves on the course after not having the section tournament either thought they would have," Miller said. "The future is bright with three of the five golfers returning to play together for CHS the next two years."

Rock Ridge High School had three of the top four individual scores.

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