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Fujitani first-ever Mercer Island singles state champion | Prep girls golf
Mercer Island freshman Rachel Fujitani became the Islanders' first-ever girls golf singles state champion Thursday, May 29, topping all scorers with a tournament-best two-day score of 146 at Lewis River Golf Course in Woodland. For the second tournament in a row, Fujitani bested Ingraham's Sarah Rhee by a single stroke to take the title. Ten days earlier, Fujitani also won the district title over Rhee by one stroke.
Unlike the district tournament, Fujitani wasn't so sure about the tournament's outcome when it came time for the final scores to be posted.
"I had no idea how I was doing or where I was at, it was nerve-wracking," she said. "I had a feeling [Rhee] had been playing well. And then when they started posting scores, I definitely felt my heart stop for a second. After the round, she congratulated me and said she was proud of me and I told her I was proud of her. That's the type of relationship we have. I'm thankful to have her, I've been playing golf with her for years now."
As a team, Mercer Island placed fifth with a score of 51. Mt. Spokane High School took the team state title, with the Wildcats boasting two golfers in the top ten and earning a team score of 125.50.
Fujitani was one of four golfers representing Mercer Island at the state tournament, advancing with Giovanna Orecchio to the tournament's final round. Orecchio placed 40th with a two-day score of 193. Also competing at state for the Islanders were Molly White and Kate Peterson, with White finishing in the first round with a score of 95 and Peterson with a score of 100.
Finishing in the top five as a team at the state tournament caps an impressive postseason showing for Mercer Island girls golf, which also earned team wins at the KingCo medalist tournament and the Sea-King district tournament. Fujitani mentioned the league loss to Bellevue that ended the Islanders' 75-match winning streak, while a heartbreaker, served as motivation for the team as well as for herself to do better heading into the postseason. When she got to state, Fujitani's goal was to play her game and have fun, something that was in line with how she approached her first season playing golf with the Islanders.
"This season, I knew I wanted to make it to state if I could as a freshman, but I wanted to make sure I had a good time with the team," she said. "I wanted to have fun and enjoy it, which I did. Toward the end, my teammates really felt like family to me. I was glad to meet every single one of them because they pushed me and they knew what I could do."
While Mercer Island golf coach Don Papasedero said it was rare for a freshman to take the state singles title, he recalled it happening before, with the last freshman to win the 3A state singles title being Seattle Prep's Katrina Hegge, who won as a freshman in 2006.
But Papasedero didn't think age was something to factor when it came to Fujitani's success.
"Rachel is a diligent worker who is very competitive. I think her age is fruitless to consider," he said. "She's an experienced player who wore down the seniors just by being consistent. She followed our game plan of how we wanted to play and placed the ball in positions where she could score. She was just a very gritty putter and made pars that were very difficult."