Outstanding performances on the highest stage always receives accolades and these high school athletes are no exception. Tahlequah’s Jake Johnson, Eufaula‘s Melissa Eldredge, Muskogee’s Connor Finerty, Sequoyah’s Nick Kingfisher and Warner’s Kailey Kilpatrick were recognized by the Phoenix as tops in their sport to kick off Awards Week.
Jake Johnson, Tahlequah
Johnson, who is bound for Northeastern State next season, can’t admit to pressure in winning his Class 5A championship. At least, that is, from an individual standpoint.
He didn’t know where he stood with Lawton MacArthur’s Trent Meisel, who he beat by a stroke. Not until he wrapped up his third and final round of the tournament.
“Our goal was all about state as a team all along,” he said of the first such crown in a boys sport at the school since the Tiger baseball team won in 1996.
After rounds of 70 and 71 on the first day, the final round of 74 at the Fort Sill Golf Course was more of a grind it out affair for him and the team. One shot from 220 yards out on the 14th fairway stands out as his SportsCenter type moment.
“I took a 6-iron and had to hook it about 40 yards around trees and wound up eight feet from the pin with a chance at an eagle,” he said. “I had to settle for a birdie, but that shot is in the top five shots I’ve ever hit.”
“The (three-inch) tap-in to get all this over with,” he said.
Melissa Eldredge, Eufaula
The sophomore, one of a horde of area sophs who will make golf interesting the next few years, won five tournaments — Oktaha, Eufaula, Conference, 3A Regional qualifier and Regional) and an ace on the par-3 third hole by Idabel’s Ali White proved to be the difference in a two-shot swing as Eldredge lost by two strokes in the Class 3A state medalist race, finishing second overall.
“I felt like I put in a lot of hard work in the summer and winter getting ready to defend our team title, which was my top priority,” she said. “I hit the ball better and was more consistent.
“But the mental part was probably key and I credit my dad (Joe) and my coach (Jim Ramsey, Fountainhead Creek Golf Course pro) for that. They drilled it at me that everyone else believed in me but that didn’t matter if I didn’t believe in myself.
“This award is one of those things that gives you an added sense of accomplishment. I’m thankful for that.”