KAPPA — As Tri-Valley High School gathered for a team photo to celebrate winning the Class 1A El Paso-Gridley Boys Golf Regional on Tuesday, Vikings coach Bryan Corn made a simple request.
"Look happy," said Corn.
The Vikings finally obliged with smiles at El Paso Golf Club. They fired a 334 total to claim the title by eight strokes over Fieldcrest with El Paso-Gridley taking third (343). Dwight placed fourth in the 11-team field at 366.
The three Heart of Illinois Conference teams advanced to Monday's Danville Schlarman Sectional at Danville Country Club.
"I think they felt they could have played a little bit better. They have high expectations for themselves," said Corn. "But they'll be happy later, trust me."
AJ Foster of Midland fired a 3-over-par 74 to claim medalist honors. Fieldcrest's Clay Wells took second with 77, followed by EPG's Caleb Lavender (78), Andrew Curl of Dwight (80) and Tri-Valley's Matthew Barker (81).
Curl advanced as an individual to the sectional along with Woodland's Tyler Jenkins (83) and the Roanoke-Benson duo of Jarrett Bline (87) and Carter Sauder (92).
Besides Barker, also counting toward Tri-Valley's winning total were Drew Guimond (84), Camdyn Zook (84) and Josh Stewart (85). The rest of the squad includes Ryan Steiner (90) and Drew Rudsinski (99).
"Playing here a week before helped a ton," said Corn. "They have a lot of familiarity playing this course with El Paso being in the conference."
Corn said the Vikings got a lift from Guimond, a senior who plays in the No. 6 spot. Guimond wasn't in the team photo as he had to leave right after his round concluded for cross country practice, where he is Tri-Valley's No. 1 runner.
"He had a lot of personal challenges. His dad just had brain surgery Friday and was released this morning," said Corn. "For him to come out and do what he did is pretty cool."
Fieldcrest captured the first regional in school history last year at El Paso Golf Club. Nick Mariotti and Koy Allen each shot 83s, while Isaac Morse also counted with 99.
"We dug ourselves a little deficit on the front side, but I thought we dug ourselves out of it coming down the stretch," said Fieldcrest coach Matt Winkler. "It was a little bit nip and tuck there. I thought we did a nice job finishing strong."
Wells, a senior, recovered from the 85 he shot in the HOIC tourney.
"This week I just had more confidence," he said. "I was telling myself to keep my head up and play well, try to hit a good shot after I hit a bad shot and rescue yourself. I was putting really well."
Lavender is the veteran on EPG's squad as a sophomore to go along with five freshmen. AJ Bond (85), Jacob Castleman (92) and Harrison Brooks (92) also counted.
"We're a year away from being competitive. We're knocking on the door," said EPG coach Ken Colmone. "The kids are doing the right things. They're out here playing and everywhere they need to be right now."
Colmone said Lavender has "been the kid who has grown up the most, bar none. He's starting to get it. Things are starting to click for him. He's letting bad holes go and looking for the next hole."