At first glance, it might be hard to find a lot of common ground for Dalton High standout athletes Brendie Rockholt and Susan Meinders.
Rockholt, who recently graduated following an impressive senior golf season, is a star on fairways and greens, having found a sport she could be passionate about after suffering a knee injury that knocked her off the basketball court. Her swing is one of power and balance, and her touch near the pin is the envy of any weekend duffer at the country club.
Meinders, a junior, is the graceful gazelle of the Lady Catamounts track and field team. She has that rare combination of speed, power, agility and perfect form needed for success in the hurdles.
And while it may appear they have little in common at first glance, this past spring they both earned the same title — state champion.
Rockholt was the medalist at the Class 3A state golf tournament, while Meinders came back from Albany and the Class 3A state track meet as the title winner in the 300-meter hurdles.
For their efforts, Rockholt and Meinders have been selected as The Daily Citizen’s 2012 All-Area Spring Team Female Athletes of the Year. The All-Area Spring Teams are chosen by the newspaper’s sports staff with input from coaches at Christian Heritage, Coahulla Creek, Dalton, Murray County, North Murray, Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield.
While they may not be on the same team, both Rockholt and Meinders excel in solitary sports and added to Dalton’s individual state championship haul for the 2011-12 school year. Cats wrestlers Sydney Wheeler and swimmers Taylor Dale and Pierson Scarborough each claimed individual state titles as well.
Dalton girls golf coach Nancy Hallsworth said the injury before Rockholt’s junior season was the turning point in her golf game. She tore an ACL during a basketball game and doctors limited what she could do physically after surgery to repair the tear.
“What it did was, it forced her to practice her short game and focus that drive,” Hallsworth said. “It helped her understand what golf meant to her personally. It was one of those mixed blessings. It was a horrible situation that turned into a great thing for her.”
But Rockholt’s state title came after a year when she was rarely happy with her game whenever she was asked about it.
Throughout the season and even at the Region 7-3A tournament at Indian Trace in Chatsworth, which Dalton won with relative ease, Rockholt was down on her game. Based on her self-assessment after a medalist round at region — she won with a 7-over 79 in windy conditions, a score seven strokes better than runner-up Megan Collins of Southeast Whitfield — one would have thought she didn’t belong on a Putt-Putt course, much less in the top pairing.
“It is her drive,” Hallsworth said of Rockholt’s constant critiquing of her game. “It is awesome. She is driven to succeed and she knows she has an even better game in front of her. It drives her to continue and practice more and work harder.”
But any time she walked on a course she was easily one of the top three golfers in the area. Her harsh self-criticism is simply a reflection of how competitive she is, and that competitiveness earned her a scholarship to Armstrong Atlantic State University. The same week she won the region title, she signed with the Pirates, an NCAA Division II program that competes in the Peach Belt Conference.
Still, going into the state tournament, it would have been easy for an observer to peg Rockholt as the prohibitive favorite. She had finished fourth in 2011, and the three girls who finished ahead of her had all graduated.
Rockholt wasn’t so sure.
“I knew I had a chance,” she said, “but I didn’t think that it was going to happen.”
Even after she posted a 6-over-par 78 at Keysville’s Applewood Golf Course in the state tournament, she still didn’t think her game was good enough as she waited on her competition to finish their rounds.
“I thought it was a very beatable score,” Rockholt said. “I didn’t play my best, and I probably prayed more on the last nine holes than I have ever prayed before.”
Her drive — like the drives she unleashed at the Augusta-are course in May — is powerful indeed.
However, looking back on the season as a whole, Rockholt has no regrets and looks forward to heading to Savannah to start her college career.
“I feel like I couldn’t have had a better senior year,” Rockholt said. “I really want to focus and improve my game at college. I will be around it 24/7 with some really good coaches, and I look forward to it.”
Meinders, who recently returned from a summer foreign exchange program in Germany, will have another year to dazzle on the track after a junior campaign that certainly sparkled.
A constant for the Lady Cats track team all year, she truly blossomed at the Region 7-3A track and field championships. With Allatoona running away with both the boys and girls team finals, Meinders was still the top story.
Like something out of a decathlon, Meinders took home first-place finishes in the long jump and the 300 hurdles while also serving as the anchor leg to the 4X100 relay team and the 4x400 relay team. In winning the 4X400, Meinders was more than 20 meters behind Allatoona’s Emily Dunn and still managed to take victory with a personal-best 58-second leg to claim the title.
“That race, that is her spirit right there,” said Dalton community coach Henry Ouzts of Meinders’ anchor-leg victory. “That was Allatoona’s top gun, and she ran her down. Head to head this year, the only people that beat her was when I raced her against the boys.”
She also finished second in the 100 at region. Maybe discus or high jump will be the next events for Meinders.
“She actually wanted to do pole vault,” Ouzts said. “It is a shame they limit her to five events, because I think she would try them all.
But the hurdles is her spotlight event.
She finished first in the event at both the Region 7-4A meet with a time of 45.62 and was first at the the Class 3A West sectional meet to qualify for the state meet. In Albany, her qualifying time had her seeded second heading into the finals.
She said earning a middle lane heading into the last race gave her all of the mental edge she needed to take the title.
“Being in lane 4 or lane 5 and knowing that you are one of the top qualifiers gives you a lot of confidence,” she said. “I was ready to do better than last year.”
As a sophomore, Meinders had qualified for state and ended up medalling with a seventh-place finish in a time of 46.43 seconds. While claiming the state title this year, Meinders shaved more than two full seconds off of her time. In the preliminaries, she set a personal best and another school record with a time of 44.17, and she won the title — easily — with a time of 44.21, finishing 18-hundredths of a second ahead of her nearest competitor.
Even a near stumble as she clipped the top of the next-to-last hurdle couldn’t stop her dominance in the race. She led by five meters coming off of the turn and heading into the front stretch of Hugh Mills Stadium.
“When I started the season, I was pulling 46s and then got into the 45s,” Meinders said of her progression through the season. “Coach Ouzts kept saying that I could get faster and faster and started talking about me hitting 44s. He pushed me more and more through practice. He was the one who believed I was going to win state from the beginning.”
Now there are plenty of believers.