Three students were named to All-City/County teams as well as the individual recognition, below. This is for area fall sports (though EMS plays golf in the spring). We also recognize Halie Mast ’21 for cross country, and Adrienne Cline ’21 and Karla Hostetter ’21 for volleyball area teams. See full Daily News-Record coverage.
Eastern Mennonite’s Slonaker Gives Program First State Champion
By CODY ELLIOTT Daily News-Record Jan 24, 2020
HARRISONBURG — Before he could even walk, Meade Slonaker was playing golf.
The Eastern Mennonite senior was picking up plastic clubs as a toddler, his family said, and began playing with left-handed clubs by the time he was seven years old.
“Golf works with Meade’s personality,” said Chris Slonaker, who is Meade’s father and also serves as the golf coach at Eastern Mennonite High School. “Unlike in other sports, golfers walk and talk with each other during a match. A high school golf match is an opportunity to make friends and learn about someone else and their background, interests and school while competing. It is competitive and social at the same time.”
In the spring, Meade Slonaker won the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III boys golf championship — the first in program history.
Adding to that, Slonaker is the 2019 Daily News-Record Golfer of the Year.
“Winning a state championship often starts years before a player or a team lifts the trophy,” Eastern Mennonite athletic director Andrew Gascho said. “That is definitely the case with Meade. He has tirelessly been working on his golf game for years, and for that hard work to result in an individual state championship last year was amazing.”
Slonaker began playing golf competitively at the age of seven when he participated in the First Citizens Junior Golf Tour, winning Player of the Year twice during that time.
He then played in many other junior events with the Virginia State Golf Association, the American Junior Golf Association, Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, and College Prep Tour.
In 2019, he qualified for the North and South Junior — a prestigious junior event.
“That’s something that really helped me in the past year,” Slonaker said. “For me, knowing there are birdies out there, if I make a mistake, it’s not too big of a deal. If I can get the ball somewhere on the green, I feel like I can get ahead of the rest of the field.”
His dedication to the sport is what separates him from his peers, according to Gascho.
“One thing that stands out about Meade is that he is an approachable leader on the golf team,” the first-year athletic director said. “While he is focused on improving his individual game, he is also committed to working with the younger players, helping them with their game, but also ensuring they are aware of the important role they have on the team. That kind of humble leadership embodies the essence of what we hope EMS athletes are. Not just when the complete, but in the years after they leave EMS.”
Slonaker said his teammates were supportive of his goal throughout the season.
He is a four-time first-team All-Virginia Independent Conference selection during his time with the Flames and has earned VISAA first-team all-state honors three times.
“The team was really supportive all year,” Slonaker said. They knew that was kind of my goal, to win the individual title. I think that drove our team last year. We wanted to get everyone there to be supportive. I have been close the last few years. I just never felt like I played that great. Always felt like I left a few out there. This year, I guess it was just a really good match. We battled the whole way and when it was over, it was huge.”
Chris Slonaker said Meade’s leadership and ability to encourage teammates has been a pivotal part of building a consistent and competitive program at Eastern Mennonite.
While Meade Slonaker said it has been an adjustment at certain times through the course of his career, he added that having his father by his side has been special.
“He’s been my coach in everything as long as I can remember,” Slonaker said. “My dad and I are both scratch golfers now. We play a lot together. I teach him things and he teaches me things. We’re kind of a duo. We get along really well now.”
That bond between the father and son began when Slonaker was just a young kid, trying to pick up plastic clubs in his house and developing that love for the sport.
17 years later, now as a state champion, Slonaker said he’s certainly glad it did.
“It took a while to sink in,” Slonaker said. “It was a few months before the plaque came in and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ It was awesome to be the first golfer for EMHS. Winning states made it all worth it.”