Chattanooga Christian School senior Jonathan Xoinis was feeling a little less pressure.
Signal Mountain's boys soon joined him in that improved state.
Xoinis repeated as the boys' medalist and the Eagles won the team title for the first time at the City Prep golf tournament Wednesday at Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.
On the banks of the Tennessee River at the beautiful course designed by Jack Nicklaus, the state's No. 3-ranked junior golfer gave a fist pump soon after closing with a birdie on No. 18. Xoinis was all smiles as he posted a 6-under 66, two strokes better than his winning score from a year ago, when Baylor won the boys' title via a one-hole playoff.
"I actually committed to play for UT-Martin's golf program yesterday," Xoinis said after making four birdies and avoiding bogeys on the back nine of the same course where he shot 8 under a few weeks ago in a practice round.
"I always dreamed of playing Division I golf. To get that off my shoulders allowed me to go out there and have a lot of fun today. I really played well with my wedges today to set up easy putts."
Soon after winning, Xoinis was doing AP statistics homework because he will miss some time in the classroom as part of his participation in the annual Tennessee Junior Cup this weekend in College Grove. Xoinis is set to play 54 holes at The Grove in the Ryder Cup-style event that pits the 10 best boys' junior golfers from East Tennessee against their counterparts from West Tennessee.
Baylor's Sheldon McKnight is also part of Team East in the showcase hosted by Scott Stallings, the Knoxville native and former Tennessee Tech golfer with three PGA Tour victories.
The Signal Mountain boys, last year's Small Class state champions, continued to play strong — and close to par as a team. Junior Benjamin Burns shot a 69 to lead the Eagles to a 3-over 291 as they finished seven strokes ahead of both Baylor and McCallie.
Burns tied for second individually with Walker Valley senior Dalton Sutton, who made six putts of at least 20 feet. McCallie's Bennett McNabb (70) was fourth, and McMinn County's Dadj Watson (71) had a hole-in-one on No. 11 on his way to finishing fifth.
"We are all excited and really wanted to win this tournament, " said Burns, whose older sister was a two-time state champion for the Lady Eagles, who have won the state tournament six times.
"Being able to break 70 is huge because I had shot right at that mark six times this year. I really love the back nine here and shot 4 under to finish. To play like this in a team event where everyone gets to benefit means a lot to me."
Burns was followed by senior teammate Ben Seay's 72, while Foster Wood (74) and Beck Lewis (76) had the Eagles' other counting rounds.
Signal Mountain coaches Art Hagood and Rodney Mitchell pointed to the Eagles' chemistry and work ethic after yet another triumph in what looks to be a special season.
"They are better than they were last year," Mitchell said. "They continually work at it and really cheer one another on. Each day they are working to improve, and that's all you can ask of them."
Baylor swept the girls' honors, with the Lady Raiders winning the team trophy with a 153 and medalist Kyndall Shamblin turning in one of the biggest highlights on a hot day. The sophomore's 73 included an eagle putt on the par-5 12th hole.
Sale Creek's girls were second at 167, led by 2018 City Prep winner Ashley Holland (80), who this time tied for second with Baylor's Preslee Yoder (80). Soddy-Daisy's Madeline McNeal (80) and Cleveland's Hannah Nall (82) shared fourth.
"To win a tournament like this boosts your confidence for the bigger postseason tournaments to come later this season," Shamblin said. "It was a lot of fun to play with my teammates, friends. I stayed focused today and had a great time."