If the Hutchinson Invitational last month was any indication, the Derby boys golf team may be in for something special this postseason.
The Panthers took third at Hutch, ahead of teams such as Shawnee Mission East and Blue Valley North, which were the top two teams at the Class 6A tournament last season. Blue Valley, finished fourth at state last year, was four strokes ahead of Derby.
Not that Hutchinson's tournament is the only indicator, but it certainly has one of the best fields of any tournament in the regular season and usually gives teams a gauge for regionals and state.
"We've had some really good scores all year long, but the regular season doesn't have the same pressure nor the caliber of teams that we will see in regionals and state," Derby coach Tim Herrs said. "We have the talent, but it's the mental aspect that will be the deciding factor in the postseason."
Derby returned its top five golfers from last season, including Shane Gilbert, who is averaging a 75 this season. The five other golfers in the lineup have scoring averages in the low 80s.
"Having five lettermen returning has been a big advantage and has raised our expectations," Herrs said. "All five have state tournament experience, so that isn't a new thing to them if we make it as a team — the pressure won't be the same."
While Gilbert is the top scorer, Herrs said the Panthers' balance throughout the rest of their lineup has proven beneficial.
"Each golfer can score and go low," Herrs said. "If one guy is off the others pick them up and provide a low score in their place, which is a luxury for sure."
Falcons on rise — Heights has made a steady climb up the City League standings thanks to an influx of new talent.
Andrew Nguyen played on Kapaun Mount Carmel's junior varsity last season, Fin Nimcharoenwan is an exchange student from Thailand and freshman Caleb Haight is splitting time between golf and baseball.
Add those three to returner Hunter Leichner, who was one of the league's top scorers last season, and the Falcons have made the jump to second place in the league. If Heights takes second at the City League championship today at Sim Park, it would finish alone in second place in the league.
"All three of these players have been valuable to our team this year," Heights coach John Loomis said. "In the past, we have had to count a score or two in the 90s. This year we have the capability of having four scores in the 70s."