Cheng focuses on own score, takes home 4A district title

Senior shoots 82 to rally from six shots back to win

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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WOODLAND -- Union senior Belex Cheng maintained her focus and never varied from her strategy.

She had no idea what her competition was up to Tuesday at the Class 4A District 4 girls golf tournament, and that is exactly how she wanted it.

"My goal was to remain calm and just focus on my own score," Cheng said.

Cheng fired an 82 Tuesday on the par-73 course -- seven strokes better than her opening round -- and won her third consecutive district championship.

She trailed teammate Alica Kwon by six strokes going into the final round and was playing one group in front of Kwon.

"I felt pretty good after the front nine, but I told my coaches I didn't want to know how she was shooting," Cheng said.

So she did not know that she was tied for the lead after those nine holes.

Cheng said she was told at the 18th hole that she was doing pretty good.

"I had a feeling then," she said.

It turned out, Cheng made par on the final four holes and ended up winning by six strokes over another Union teammate. Freshman Reilly Whitlock took second, shooting an 85 a day after posting 92.

"It was a nice recovery," Whitlock said.

Skyview's Emma Wriston also improved on Day 2, scoring an 86 after a Monday 94 to finish third.

Kwon struggled all day and ended up tied for fourth with Battle Ground's MacKenzie Alamillo.

Those five earned their spots to the Class 4A state tournament, which will be played at Club Green Meadows in Vancouver May 21-22. The next eight finishers will play in next week's bi-district tournament for one more shot to qualify for state.

"I'm really grateful," Whitlock said of going straight to state. "I didn't want to miss Mother's Day."

Many of the golfers going to Monday's bi-district will travel Sunday for a practice round.

Union, with four players in the top 11, won the team title with 215.5 points. Camas was second at 180.5 This is Union's fourth consecutive district crown.

"I'm really proud of my team," Cheng said. "Everybody did really great this year. Three going to state. Two going to (bi-district)."

Olivia Vedder finished 11th to make bi-district for the Titans, and Dani Finley beat Maddie Miller of Camas in a playoff for the final berth to bi-district.

For Cheng, it was great way to head to state -- as a district champion again.

Still, she said, it was difficult to chase down a teammate for the crown.

"You want them to do really well, and you want to do well, too," she said.

In the end, it was a familiar face atop the scoreboard.

"It really means a lot to win three times," Cheng said. "I'm really grateful to my whole team, and my parents, and my coaches for supporting me."