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Bucky Crippen sights in

Loyola Sacred Heart's Bucky Crippen reads the green ahead of an eagle putt try on hole No. 16 at the Hamilton Golf Club earlier this season. 

MISSOULA — Loyola Sacred Heart senior golfer Bucky Crippen won the State B boys golf title last year, becoming the fourth sibling in his family to capture an individual championship.

Crippen would like to repeat this year, but he also wants to help lead Loyola to the team title. He and the Rams will have that chance when Missoula hosts the State B tournament for the first time starting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and running through Wednesday at The Ranch Club.

“They got the state championship as a team my sophomore year, and then I got the individual as a junior,” Crippen said. “I think it’d be cool to get both as a senior to cap it off. I’d just like to cheer for the rest of the guys on our team.”

As a team, the Rams have won each of the six tournaments in which they’ve competed, including divisionals. Last year, they lost by two strokes against Shelby at state. The other top teams to watch are Shelby, Florence, Anaconda, Baker, Choteau and Conrad. Florence, which is in its third year as a program, is making its first state appearance as a team.

Individually, Crippen’s top competitors are expected to be Baker’s Konner Flint, Big Timber’s Blake Finn and Conrad’s Jarek Shepard, who are all in the lead group. Flint carded a Class B-best 71 at divisionals, while Crippen was second with a 73. Finn shot a 75, and Shepard had a 77. Two others shot under 80 and could be in contention: Conrad’s Blake Vandenacre (78) and Thompson Falls’ Ethan Brown (79).

Crippen heads into the state tournament having won all six tournaments he’s competed in this season. He’s felt more confident this year and credited that to the summer tournaments he excelled in as well as his breakthrough with that state title by eight strokes.

“Last year, I was like, ‘All right, I got to do it at some point,’” Crippen said. “It gives you a little more confidence, but every year’s different. It’s hard to go back-to-back in any sport because it’s a new year. A lot can change in a year. It helps with confidence, but you still have to go out there and earn it.”

State B girls

Loyola senior Katie Fagg, the 2018 state runner-up and highest-returning placer, will aim for her first state title when the State B girls tournament kicks off at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at Canyon River Golf Club.

Fagg, a Carroll College signee, has won all six tournaments in which she’s participated after she overhauled her swing in the offseason. She enters with the top divisional score in Class B, a 78.

Fagg’s top competitors are expected to be Shelby’s Skyler Martin (80), Forsyth’s Katie Frieze (84), Loyola’s Isadora Tomazeli (85), Bigfork’s Isabella Santistevan (86) and Fairfield’s Emma Woods (88). They’re seeded second through sixth behind Fagg.

As a team, Loyola will be aiming for its second consecutive team title and comes in having won five of its six tournaments. Other teams to watch include Shelby, Bigfork and Columbus.

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“We are excited for the competition this year,” Loyola head coach Mike Trudnowski said. “Both our top golfers, Bucky Crippen and Katie Fagg, along with our boys team and girls team, have put themselves in positions to contend for the state championships.”

State C boys, girls

The Manhattan Christian boys and girls will look to defend their team titles at the State C golf tournament, which runs from Tuesday through Wednesday at Double Arrow Resort in Seeley Lake. The girls are attempting a three-peat, while the boys will be going for back-to-back titles.

On the boys side, Manhattan Christian sophomore Caidin Hill will try to repeat as champion, entering with an average score of 85, tied for the seventh best in Class C. The top eight finishers from last year are back.

Westby/Grenora sophomore Kale Peterson has the lowest average with an 81, and teammate Jack Solberg is second with an 82. Fairview’s Alex Schriver and Park City’s Tucker Johnstone are tied for third with an 83. Darby freshman Ryder Conner has an average of 84, along with Park City senior Austin Popp.

Among the girls, Manhattan Christian senior Jillian Frye will try to defend her title, coming in with an average score of 91, the second best in Class C. She’s one of only three returning golfers who finished in the top 11 last year.

Ennis sophomore Landri Paladichuk, the defending runner-up, has the lowest average of the season, an 87. Lone Peak freshman TJ Nordahl is third (92), and Savage senior Tyler Lien is fourth (95). Scobey senior ShaAnn Danelson, who tied for 10th last year, has the fifth-best average with a 98.

Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at Frank.Gogola@406mtsports.com.

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