Players young and old create diverse pool at Steamboat City Tennis Championships
Steamboat Springs — When a tennis player like eighth-grader John Hannaway walks out onto the court against a middle-aged man like Ross McLaren in the quarterfinal round of the Steamboat City Singles and Doubles Championships, Tennis Center Head Pro Bill Conway doesn’t see a mismatch.
He sees the future of Steamboat tennis and a welcome diverse pool of athletes drawn to such a competitive tournament.
The 2014 Steamboat City Championships were best characterized as the emerging youths in town pinned against the seasoned veterans for a weekend that didn’t disappoint for either side.
Hannaway wasn’t even the only eighth-grader competing during the weekend. Hannaway entered the 3.5 singles competition, and middle school classmate Teague Burger stepped it up even more as a men’s 4.0 singles competitor at the championships.
The few middle schoolers were joined by a host of Steamboat Springs High School Sailors standouts in players like Troy de Jong, Charlie Smith, Max Lynch, Nolan Connell and Matthew White. The championship wasn’t without youth girls, either, with emerging elite player Tatum Burger leading the way alongside other Sailors Hanna Haggarty and Sabina Berend.
“It’s neat to see this intergenerational thing here,” Conway said. “Two years ago at this championship, you wouldn’t have seen that.”
Tatum Burger led the youth charge by a long shot, dropping just three games in her three matches en route to the women’s 4.5 singles victory. She took down Laurie Buelow, 6-3, 6-0, then swept through Kelley Dodge, 6-0, 6-0, and followed it up with another 6-0, 6-0 win against Caryn Mielke in a championship match that barely lasted 30 minutes.
“The sky is the limit for her,” new Tennis Center pro Lilia (Osterloh) Snape said about Tatum. “If she wants it and she keeps working as hard as she is now, I see really good things out of her.”
In the men’s highest category, a small 4.5 singles group was won by part-time Steamboat resident Chris Kiser, 6-0, 6-1, against Sailors junior de Jong. Kiser, while praising the standout youth at the tournament, had some fun with the old-guy-against-young-buck storyline.
“I was kind of nervous, but I knew if I just didn’t make mistakes and give up points, I’d be OK,” Kiser said. “It was the older guy versus the younger guy. Age over youth prevails.”
Charlie Smith and de Jong paired up in the men’s 4.5 doubles but ultimately fell to Matthew White and Louis Nijsten, 6-2, 6-3, in the day’s final match. On the women’s doubles side, Loretta Conway and Laurie Buelow took the crown, 6-1, 7-5.
In the men’s 4.0 singles championship, Smith won a thriller, 4-6, 7-5, 10-7, against Geoffrey Leaver. Connell, a Sailors sophomore, was taken down by Danil Sulimov, 6-1, 6-1, in the lower-level singles finals.
On the women’s singles end, Cheri Von Bargen won the lower-level round-robin pool with a 10-8, 6-1 win against Wendi Appel. Hanna Haggarty defeated high school teammate Sabina Berend in a close one at 3.5 singles, 7-5, 0-6, 11-9.
“Today just went very well,” Bill Conway said. “It was neat to have that young contingency of players. That was great.”
Conway said the championships had roughly 85 entries in singles and doubles competitions.
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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:25 p.m. to reflect the reopening of Hwy. 131.