Alta-Aurelia's Annika Patton learned a valuable lesson last season at the Class 2A state girls golf tournament.
Patton won the 2A individual title as a sophomore by four strokes a year after finishing as the runner-up as a freshman on Alta-Aurelia's 2A state title team.
Patton, who is this week's Sioux City Journal's Siouxland Athlete of the Week, was one of the favorites to win the individual title during her junior season. Patton shot a 78 on the first day of the 2A state tournament, putting her three strokes behind Dike-New Hartford's Morgan Weber.
It was one of the first times in the past couple of seasons Patton had to come from behind.
Her second day didn't get off to a great start and while she was able to steady her score for an 83, it was well behind Weber, who finished with a 73 and had a two-day total of 148 to win the state title.
Patton finished in third place, giving her three top-three finishes in her career. But after winning the state title as a sophomore, she fell short of her goal as a junior. However, she took a valuable lesson out of not winning the state title last year.
"I gained a lot from it as a person and as a player and have used it to my advantage. It's changed my game a lot," Patton said. "Sometimes you have a bad start but just relax and there are more holes to go and you can make up those strokes. My mom (Alta-Aurelia coach LeAnn Patton) said sometimes the best player isn't always going to come out on top. As long as you put your best foot forward, that's the real lesson."
Patton hasn't missed a beat to start this season and the UNI recruit already has some of the best scores in the state. Through four nine-hole rounds, she's averaging a score of 38.25, the seventh-best average in the state. Her low round is a 35, which is the third-best nine-hole round in Iowa.
"It has been a good start to the year. We've been able to get all of the rounds in. The weather hasn't been too bad so it's been a pretty good start so far," Patton said. "I am more than pleased (with my average). I want to get lower and get to even-par, but for the conditions, I am very pleased so far."
Patton's goal this season is to win her second state title, of course. LeAnn Patton said with what Annika learned last season and her work ethic, her daughter is more than capable of winning a second title.
"The third place finish was a great finish and she wasn't pleased with it but it drives her because she always wants to win and that's the goal every time. She works so hard at her game," said LeAnn Patton, who golfed at Iowa State. "She has one more shot at it and that's what we are looking for. She is always out there all of the time making herself better. She puts in 150 percent above what anyone else does."
Patton's work ethic is rubbing off on her younger teammates, too. For the last eight seasons, the Warriors have qualified for the state tournament. This season Alta-Aurelia is a little younger, outside of Annika.
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"She is the role model. They watch her in practice. When we are doing drills, they are taking it all in. They look up to her," LeAnn Patton said. "It's good for them and they work hard because they know our tradition and they want to go back. That goal has been a great thing. She leads by example and they follow."
For Annika, moving into the lead role is something she learned from her sister, Lexie Patton, who was a senior on the 2016 title team and is a golfer at Central College. She also learned from some cousins who golfed for the Warriors.
She's trying to teach the younger group of golfers the same lessons in order to get back to state for the ninth straight time.
"I do think it's possible. I know it's not going to be easy. We do have a little inexperience but if they work hard, it's possible," Patton said. "It's going to be really rewarding to see what they can achieve. I would say the team has made strides."
Patton and the rest of the team have plenty of opportunities to improve on their scores in the next nine days when the Warriors golf in seven meets.
For Patton, it provides some chances to improve on her already low average as she aims for a second state title.
"She is right up there and I would put her up against anyone in the state," LeAnn Patton said. "She can make a run for it. It's one step at a time to get there."
Track and Field
Josh Heather, West Monona - The Drake Relays qualifier won the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the long jump at two different meets last week and he was part of the winning 4x100 relay teams for the Spartans.
Mia Fank, Spencer - The sophomore had five goals in an 11-0 win over Sioux Center last week. She has 13 goals on the season for the undefeated and fifth-ranked Tigers.