Dynamic duo: Dickinson golfers Jahner, Cooper have been standouts since their sophomore season
Dickinson seniors Rachel Jahner and Riana Cooper can remember their first high school tournament.
It was six years ago at the Links of North Dakota in Williston as seventh-graders. Cooper finished with a 118 and Jahner shot a 119.
Little did Jahner and Cooper know they would become the foundation of the Dickinson High girls golf team for the next six years, emerging as the team's top two golfers their sophomore season.
"It was our first tournament that we played in and from then on we knew that we wanted to continue golfing," said Cooper, a senior at Dickinson High.
However, this one-two punch almost never happened. There was a time when Jahner didn't know if she was going to play high school golf at all, which means seven invitational wins, numerous friendships made and a runner-up finish at the 2012 Class A state tournament might not have happened.
Jahner said if it wasn't for Cooper playing high school golf alongside her, she probably wouldn't have played.
"In seventh grade, I wasn't actually sure if I was going to go out for golf," said Jahner, a senior at Dickinson Trinity. "Then (Cooper) said that she was going to, so I decided to give it a chance. It just really helped that I had someone who was my friend and I could always rely on her to help me."
Fast forward five years later, Jahner and Cooper are two of the top girls golfers in North Dakota. Jahner ranks first in the state with a 77.1 average, while Cooper is sixth with an 81.5.
For Cooper, it does seem like the fast-forward button has been pushed.
"It went so fast," Cooper said. "I can still remember that first tournament and now I'm here getting ready to go to state. It flew by. It was fun and it was a good six years. It went way too fast and I can't believe it is almost over."
Cooper and Jahner travel to Grand Forks to play the final two rounds of their respected high school careers at the 2013 Class A state tournament beginning Monday at Grand Forks Country Club.
"All the hard work I've put in over the years paid off this season," Jahner said. "It has been awesome sharing this experience with Riana. Since we played as seventh-graders, we've had some good times and bad times, but it has been just been awesome to share it with her.
"It has gone by so fast that -- you hear people say it all the time, but don't really realize it until you are actually there. I'm going to go out there in these last two rounds, see what happens and how it ends up."
Midgets head coach Sara Berglund said it has been a privilege to coach Cooper and Jahner the past two years. She admitted it is going to be tough to see them leave.
"It's been so great. They are great leaders and they are just great girls. They are fun to be around," said Berglund, who was named West Region Coach of the Year. "They've been so much fun the last couple years. It's going to be sad to see them go. I wish they could stick around for a couple more years."
An interesting fact about the duo's senior season is that they have each placed in the top five in every tournament they've played this season, including the West Region Tournament and the East-West Classic, which features every Class A team in the state.
"To be able to share all of our experiences, memories and hard work that we've put in through the years is really paying off in our senior year," Jahner said.
Cooper, Jahner focusing more on team play
The words Berglund hears the most often when she sees Cooper or Jahner during an invitational is "How the team is doing?"
Berglund said it's pretty special to hear two players wanting the team to perform well.
"Both of them know that they could possibly be in contention for a medalist spot at every tournament," Berglund said. "But, they are always asking about the team. They are always asking 'Where do you think we are sitting as a team?' It's never me, me, me. It's always what about the team."
Though Jahner and Cooper are competitive with one another, they don't let their competitive edge interfere with being happy for each other. Jahner said playing against Cooper can also prepare them for tournaments.
"In practice, we always have contests to see who can get it closest to the pin and stuff like that," Jahner said. "It just kind of gets you ready in that tournament mode, so if you need a shot, you know can really do it."
Berglund added: "It's hard when you have two people who are competitive and talented, but they always want each other to do well. They want each other to do well, because that's going to help out the team. It's awesome to see that."
Dickinson isn't only relying on Cooper's and Jahner's score every tournament, but they are helping their teammates become better. Rachel Lantz, a junior at Dickinson High, said they are great role models.
"They are always very smart about how they play," Lantz said. "It's something to look up to and something to make me play better. It makes me think about how I'm playing my game and try to make it like theirs.
"They are really supportive. They are happy with how we are playing and watching us improve."
The Midgets have the fourth-best team average of 361.5. One of the biggest obstacles Dickinson hasn't overcome this season is having the top four scorers below 100, though the Midgets have come close on multiple occasions.
"I'm hoping at the state tournament we can play at our best and get all four scorers on the same day," Berglund said. "As a team, I'm hoping that we can finish as well as can. We will be happy if we play well."
Teammates in more than one sport
The only sport where Jahner and Cooper aren't teammates is basketball because they play for different schools. In the spring, they helped lead the Midgets' softball team. Jahner is the starting shortstop and Cooper starts at second base.
"It's fun playing sports with her," Cooper said. "We are right along each other's side in both sports."
Cooper and Jahner helped the Dickinson softball team to a 21-6 overall record and third place -- the highest finish in program history -- at the 2013 Class A state tournament.
Last season, Jahner posted a .384 average with team highs in runs scored (43), walks (27) and stolen bases (13). She also supplied 23 RBIs on five extra base hits. Cooper finished with a .333 batting average with 19 RBIs, 18 runs scored and nine stolen bases.
"It's really cool, because I get to share my softball experiences with her too," Jahner said. "Being a shortstop and second baseman, we work together a lot. It's nice to have some chemistry between us for both sports."
Thoughts about continuing their golf careers
As two of the top golfers in the state, Cooper and Jahner have tossed around the idea of playing at the next level, though neither has signed with a college.
"I'm going to tour a few colleges, but I'm not set on a school," Cooper said. "I've thought about playing golf in college, but I don't know for sure."
Berglund hopes both girls continue their golf careers, because she wants the chance to watch them play at the collegiate level.
"I want to see them continue their golf career in the future and in college too," Berglund said. "I'd love to go and watch them. Hopefully, this isn't the end and a new chapter coming up."