Game On - Spring 2024

I t’s the worst kept secret in the state of Iowa as the 2024 spring sports season reaches full throttle. Grant Walker knows it. Eden Lohrbach knows it. So do her twin sisters, Ava and Ella, and the senior trio of Josie Dukes, Haley Loonan, and Macy Underwood. The Gilbert girls’ golf team is the favorite to win its second straight Class 3A state cham- pionship next month when the best individuals and teams in the class convene at Pheasant Ridge Golf Course in Cedar Falls. And labeling the Tigers simply as the “favorite” isn’t descriptive enough. Add the word over- whelming and that might not be enough either. Which begs the question: Does this group have impos- sible expectations heaped upon it as it sets out to live up to the hype? Walker, the Tigers’ head coach and reigning state Coach of the Year, doesn’t have an an-

swer. What he does know is he likes the lineup he’ll put on the course this spring, and he’d put it up against any team in the state, regardless of class. “We’re going to be the favorite to win (the state title) again, the girls all know that,” Walker said. “Last year everybody knew it was us. Whenever we showed up, we were going to be the fa- vorite and that’s even more pressure than they’d had the previous year trying to win a state title. But that’s something they really thrived on last year.” What makes us so sure Gil- bert has a stranglehold on 3A, on paper anyway? All you need to do is study last spring’s re-

sults to know it’s true. The Tigers went unbeaten during the 2023 campaign and put an exclamation point at the end of the sentence with a 19- stroke win over 36 holes at the state meet. Eden Lohrbach, who will play collegiately at the University of Nebraska, won her second individual state cham- pionship by five shots. Flash forward to the rosters of the top teams for this spring. Gilbert returns five of its state- tournament players and six that had considerable varsity time a year ago. Returning state runner-up Dubuque Wahlert re- turns only three of its six varsity players, while third-place fin-

isher Clear Lake was gutted, losing five of its six players. Is there a 3A team out there somewhere that had a transfor- mation, or gained an influx of talented freshmen over the past 12 months? It’s possible. Still, that’s probably not enough to push past Gilbert. At their best, the Tigers are a runaway freight train that will smash anything in their way. “This group is motivated,” Walker said. “They want the (school) record book to just be the Class of 2024. I hope they don’t get too caught up in that, but I also think they have the potential to do all of those things.” This senior quartet of Eden Lohrbach, Dukes, Loonan, and Underwood have never lost a regular season meet. The only blips on the résumé are back- to-back runner-up state finishes in 2021 and 2022. “This group is used to win- ning,” Walker said.

22 GAME ON | SPRING 2024

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