RIVER FALLS -- It didn’t take long for the River Falls girls' golf team to pick up some hardware.

Just 10 days after starting practice for the 2019 season, the Wildcats put together a score of 62 at the Barron Scramble Friday, Aug. 16, to win the 21-team event by six strokes. Baldwin-Woodville was second with 68 with Maple Northwestern third with 69.

“We had a nice day,” River Falls coach Gabe Van Pelt said. “Everyone was consistently hitting the ball well and our putts were falling.”

Jaden Wiowode, Hannah Harper, Madyson Shew, Lilly Accola and Mekinnah Xiong combined for an eagle and seven birdies on the par 71 course. They got off to a hot start by teaming up for a 3 on the par-5 second hole and birdied the par-3 fifth before back-to-back birdies on holes 7 and 8 gave them a 31 on the front 9. They matched that score with four more birdies on the back to finish at 62.

The strong start to the season is just what the Wildcats were looking for after winning the Big Rivers Conference championship a year ago but coming up short of reaching the WIAA State Tournament. Harper, a senior, and Woiwode, a junior, return after earning All-BRC Second Team honors last season while senior Makaylin Harer is also back after earning first team all-conference honors in 2018. With the addition of newcomers like Xiong, Van Pelt said he is excited about the new season.

“We have a lot of girls coming back,” he said. “We were conference champs last year and did well at the regional. We came up a little short at sectional but it was a strong sectional with a lot of good teams. So it gives us some good motivation for this year.”

The Wildcats have a busy week this week, beginning with the Eau Claire North Invitational at Mill Run Monday, Aug. 19. Wednesday they’ll visit New Richmond for the New Richmond Invitational and Thursday they’re at Lake Wissota for the Chippewa Falls Invite before ending the week at the Stevens Point Invitational Friday.

Van Pelt said the team is looking forward to playing the Stevens Point Country Club, site of this year’s sectional tournament, and Nemadji Golf Course in Superior next Wednesday, Aug. 28, site of this year’s regional.

“Those will be good tests for us,” he said.

But Van Pelt and the Wildcats aren’t looking too far ahead. First they have their sights set on defending their BRC title, which Van Pelt said will be a challenge.

“It’s a good conference,” he said. “Menomonie is good again and Hudson has Paige Hillman back, who may be this year’s conference player of the year. So we have our work cut out for us.”

But with last week’s first place finish at Barron, the Cats are off to a good start.

“I’m excited for them,” Van Pelt said. “The first week is always fun and it’s a senior-junior led team and they’re all competing with each other, so we’re looking forward to a good season.”