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SOUTHERN PINES — Salisbury could have paid tribute to its third-straight state championship by playing with three players Tuesday.
That’s how dominant the Hornets were during their seemingly annual trip to the sandhills, this time at Longleaf Golf and Country Club. Had you taken away second-place finisher Isabella Rusher, SHS would have still walked away with the title trophy. But the Hornets and their penchant for going beyond the norm is what got them there in the first place. ‘There’ being 57 strokes ahead of the field for another 1A/2A crown. Rusher, Grace Yatawara and Madeline Hoskins all finished in the top six and SHS did what it had to do after a convincing opening day where it compiled a 34-shot advantage. Rounds of 233 and 241 bested runner-up Newport Croatan.
“You’ve got girls that have as much talent as Isabella and Grace and they’re disappointed that they finished second and fifth,” said Salisbury coach Dale Snyder, who won his seventh title between the boys and girls teams. “It’s a testament to how dominant they are.”
Rusher didn’t three-peat the individual championship, but senior captain Madeline Hoskins made up for any lack of hardware with the tournament’s Sportsmanship Award, the first of its kind. In addition to the award, Hoskins provided the all-important competitive third score, shooting 83 Tuesday after a 78 Monday. In what could be an accolade-filled week for Hoskins, who plays in the west region tennis final today, the honor didn’t go unnoticed.
“I always try to go out there and have good sportsmanship,” said Hoskins, who tied for sixth with Tarboro’s Katie King. “It’s cool to think someone noticed it. I didn’t even know they had an award for it.”
Rusher, who shot 79 Tuesday for a two-day total of 154 to tie for second, was attempting to tie East Henderson grad Blair Lamb’s record of three individual titles in a row. Rusher entered Tuesday a shot behind eventual winner Annika Winebarger of Elkin and ended up tying Winebarger’s teammate Mary Francis Hall for second. Winebarger is a Catawba commit. Rusher played with Domitrovits and Winebarger Tuesday, teeing off at 11 a.m.
“I had a rocky start and I wasn’t confident with my swing,” said Rusher, who started with a 42 on the front nine and a 37 late. “My back nine was alright, but I’ll learn a lot from this round and hopefully do better next year.”
Yatawara won the regional last week and finished fifth with a 159. Tuesday’s 79 bested her Monday total by one shot. The sophomore shot a stellar 36 on the front nine, earning a birdie on No. 9. The course was a par 71, 5,770-yard layout on a day where the temperature exceeded 70 degrees.
“I played great on the front and couldn’t make putts on the back,” Yatawara said. “I wasn’t hitting it solid and how I knew I could hit it.”
Elkin earned third despite Winebarger and Hall’s performances.
“No. 1 and 2 went to Elkin but that shows you how important that third score really is,” Snyder said.
Hoskins, coming off a state championship in doubles tennis over the weekend, added another trophy to her ever-growing supply.
“I just played really solid both days,” Hoskins said. “The highest I took on a hole is a bogey.
Sophomore Shelby Holden qualified for state and shot 100 and 106. Holden was playing in her first state tournament.
“My first day was better than my second day,” Holden said. “It was a really good experience.”
Caroline Parrott was also a contributor during the sesaon.
“Three in a row’s pretty special,” Snyder said.

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