TRINITY — The tears began to well in Megan Van Etten's eyes the moment the Mitchell senior held the 2A-4 regional trophy.
For Van Etten, the region tournament had been a source of extreme frustration. The three-time Sunshine Athletic Conference champion had qualified all four years for regionals but never advanced thanks to some excruciatingly close finishes.
With the trophy in her hands, the pain of so many near-misses seemed but a distant memory.
Mitchell, led by Van Etten's 2-over 73, claimed first place by six strokes over Durant at Heritage Springs, the Mustangs' first state tournament berth since 2004. The Mustangs and Cougars will represent the region at next week's Class 2A state finals at the Ocala Golf Club.
"It's been a long four years and I've wanted it every year and I've been so upset after every regional because we were so close," Van Etten said. "It just feels good to finally make it."
Last season, the Mustangs entered regionals as one of a handful of likely contenders but had their state hopes dashed by a subpar round. During her freshman and sophomore campaigns, Van Etten's Mustangs missed the cut by a couple of strokes.
"A week ago our coach told us that if we went out and played our game, we'd win regionals," Van Etten said. "But we know not to get our hopes up anymore because last year we did that and we played horribly. But this year; he was right."
Tuesday, Van Etten finished fifth individually. Younger sister Rebecca was sixth at 3-over 74. Victoria Kinney recorded 86 and Emma Fivecoat 89 to help the Mustangs nudge past Durant.
"We just really came together as a team, and that's what we needed," Megan Van Etten said. "It wasn't just one or two scores, it was the whole team coming in with awesome scores. It felt wonderful."
2A-2 at Lake Mary
A pair of North Suncoast individuals competed in the Class 2A, District 2 tournament at Magnolia Plantation Golf Course in Lake Mary.
Springstead freshman Megan Berube finished with 87, and Zephyrhills senior Sarah Baniszewski shot 88. Both finished in the top 10 but neither advanced to next week's state tournament.
Izzy Gould, Times staff writer