Joel Reichenberger: Tennis program is tops
Steamboat Springs — Thinking about all the area high school sports teams kicking off their fall seasons in the coming weeks, I had a hard time finding squads that were sure to be successful.
I’m talking guaranteed successful, like the way it was possible to guarantee last year that the Steamboat Springs High School and Soroco High School football teams were going to be successful.
Those teams returned massively talented athletes, and the 2009 football season was one local fans had looked forward to for the entire span of time those athletes were in school.
It doesn’t seem easy to place that kind of confidence in any of this year’s programs with one exception.
The continued success of the Steamboat Springs High School tennis program — the boys, who are playing this fall, and the girls, who will suit up next spring — is astonishing.
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The Sailors started another strong season Friday with a 4-3 victory against Aspen, a feat made all the more impressive by the news late in the week that Steamboat’s reigning No. 1 singles player, Jamey Swiggart, would miss the his entire season with a lower back injury.
That’s terrible news for Swiggart, who’s been a consistent presence at the state tournament for Steamboat in his previous two seasons.
But as sad as his injury is, it just proved the strength of the Steamboat program. Senior Keegan Burger was ready and waiting to take over the No. 1 spot and should prove a fair match all season long.
The Steamboat program is so strong because it has good players. The same boys and girls wear out the highway heading to Pueblo for the state tournament from their freshman years to their senior years. State is assumed for this program, not clamored for.
But the true strength of the program is its ability to find new talent each year, the way it churns up talented freshman to replace experienced seniors that graduated.
Steamboat tennis isn’t a one-hit wonder. It’s a constant presence, and although it has yet to truly rival some of the other top programs at state, it dominates the mountain region and might not be far from contending for team championships annually.
Of course, the success of the high school program comes in large part because of the strength of the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs and the enthusiasm of Steamboat’s tennis community.
Having had a chance to check out a few of the local fall sports teams, I’ve come around and have started to think many again will be successful. The Soroco football team could contend for a league title. It’s not hard to see the Steamboat football team reloading. The Steamboat soccer team and the area’s volleyball squads have high hopes, and the cross-country team is eyeing a return to state.
You can count on fun and interesting seasons from all those teams. And you can count on a bunch of Steamboat tennis players making the trip to Pueblo for state. They’re a sure thing.
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