Clark, Copeland, Rijos, Spraggins win All-Bi-City golf awards

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comJune 14, 2013 

Brookstone's James Clark shot the low round at the state tournament in 2013, a 69, to lead his team to a fourth consecutive state championship. His coach, Trace Copeland, acted as a "manager" for the team to help it get to that position.

Northside's Isabel Rijos shot an 82 at state to lead her team to a 10th-place finish, and Columbus girls coach Chris Spraggins led his team to a second-place finish in Class AAAA.

It was an impressive season for each, which have been named the All-Bi-City golfers and coaches of the year for golf.

Heading to the top

Clark, a captain for the Cougars, in many ways played second fiddle to teammate Parker Derby in 2012. Derby, who was the golfer of the year for that season, was back for his senior year, but was joined at the top by Clark.

Clark, who has committed to Georgia Tech, averaged a 73.7 for the season, including wins in the area and state tournaments.

Copeland said he was the team's top player this season and stood out as a golfer and leader all season long.

"He seemed to pull the team together, and many times helped to communicate with me in regards to play, practice and tournaments," she said. "He also did a great job mentoring to a couple of our younger players."

Clark, a junior, will return to the team in hopes of leading it to its fifth straight state title.

Managing success

If winning the state championship wasn't enough for Brookstone, it also won the Muscogee Invitational and placed second in The Invite, hosted by Gainesville High.

The latter was a major moment for the team, Copeland said, giving it the confidence to perform at the

state tournament.

"This was a new tournament, where only the best in the state were invited," Copeland said. "We placed second, which built upon our confidence and put us in the right frame of mind to win the state tournament."

Copeland stressed that her role with the team was strictly managerial. The players have swing coaches, she said, and community coach Perrin Trotter practiced with the boys each week and went to several of the tournaments.

Still, the team's success under her watch was undeniable.

She expects similar results next season.

"We expect to have a strong team next year, as well," she said. "James and Mercer Clark, Jack Mize and sophomore Connor Todd plan to return to the team."

It will lose Derby, who has signed to play at the University of Georgia. For a team that has won four straight titles, though, competing at the highest level is always the expectation.

Impressive first year

Rijos, a freshman, did just about all one would expect in her first year with the Lady Patriots.

She averaged a 78, tied for medalist honors at the Muscogee Invitational, won the Lady Granger and was runner-up at the Georgia Peach. She finished the year with an 82 in the state tournament, good enough for 15th in the state.

Ask her how she did, and she's fairly modest.

"It was a pretty good season," she said. "Hopefully, next year will be better."

She pinpointed a few areas she'd like to improve, including putting and ball striking, but she recognizes that for a player with three years left, she's off to a good start.

"Everything is coming together pretty well," she said.

She hopes that trend will continue. Whether next year or sometime over the next three, she'd like to lead her team to its ultimate goal.

"I want to take our team to a state championship," she said, adding that there was only one way to do that. "We've just got to keep working, keep practicing."

Continued success

The Lady Blue Devils fell just shy of the state championship they had their eyes set on. Columbus topped Carrollton in the area tournament, but couldn't match the latter's impressive play at state.

That was just about the only bad news this season for Spraggins and Columbus, which was impressive all year en route to its second-place finish in Class AAAA.

With only one senior on the squad, the Lady Blue Devils still competed at the highest level.

Spraggins said a lot of that had to do with the number of tournaments they participated in.

"One thing I think that helped was that we played in more tournaments," he said. "We did pretty well in them, but the experience was the biggest part. We finished second in the state a couple years ago, and that was a key there."

The team returns plenty of talent next season, and Spraggins said the bar will be set high.

"The bar is a state championship," he said.

"It'll take a lot of work and a lot of practice. We'll need repetition, being out there all the time."

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.

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