Hayden’s Hunter brothers lead 23 city boys to state tennis
Tommy Hunter bested his brother Blake on Saturday at the 4A regionals championship. Both Hayden boys qualified for state.
Hayden tennis standouts Blake and Tommy Hunter are brothers and teammates, but also two of the fiercest rivals in the state when they square off against each other.
Tommy, a sophomore, is the defending Class 4A state singles champion and 30-2 on the year heading into this weekend’s state tournament at Winfield. One of his two losses came against Blake.
Blake, a senior, has been a top-four state placer each of his previous three seasons (a best of second) and he is 24-4 this year. All four of his losses have come against his younger brother.
Hayden coach James Sandstrom knows it hasn’t always been easy on the Hunters to constantly face off against each other, usually in title matches, but he also knows they’re better players because of it.
“I’m sure there’s a natural sibling rivalry going on, but it has been very healthy,” Sandstrom said. “I’m sure they’ve had rough moments at home after matches, but they push each other, and I think they both have a good understanding that they are where they are because of the other.”
Both brothers agree that the experience of being teammates has been a good one, although older brother Blake said he may not truly appreciate what it’s meant for a while yet.
“It’s kind of a weird thing because all of my losses this year have been to him,” Blake said. “It is fun (having Tommy as a teammate), but I think a year or two from now I’ll realize how cool it really was. Right now I just try to stay focused and not think too much about it.”
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Tommy said. “We’ve been through hard times with high school tennis, but overall it’s been a great experience for both of us.”
Sandstrom becomes a neutral observer when the Hunters square off and hopes the brothers get to play one more time in high school this weekend.
Tommy and Blake will only play at state if they meet in the finals, and if that happens it will also put Hayden in a position to challenge for the state team title.
Tommy and Blake played last Saturday for the regional championship, with Tommy prevailing, 6-2, 6-2.
“The match they played Saturday at regionals was the best I’d seen them go at it,” Sandstrom said. “That surprised me a little bit because I thought they’d be saving up a little bit for the possible matchup this weekend, but they let it all out.
“If we can get to that (finals) match, first, and then get anything similar to what we got on Saturday, it will be something special watching them play against each other for the last time.”
In addition to the Hunters, Hayden will be represented at state by the doubles team of senior Josh Russell and junior Ben Heath, who are 16-15 on the season.
The state meet is scheduled to get underway at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the T.H. Vaughn Tennis Center.
Matches begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in the tournament’s final day.
The 5A state meet will be contested at Kossover Tennis Center on Friday and Saturday, with matches starting at 11:30 a.m. on Friday.
Seaman leads the city with five state qualifiers and is coming off a second-place regional finish at Emporia last Saturday.
Viking senior Todd Rilinger was the regional singles champion and takes a 20-5 record to state, while Seaman also qualified the doubles teams of juniors Grant Boyd and Cameron Waters (16-8) and seniors Ryder Chaffee and freshman Mike Latendresse (16-7).
Topeka West qualified junior singles player Nico Gomez (18-17) and the doubles team of senior Tyler Shima and junior Kyler Cunningham (22-17), while Shawnee Heights qualified the doubles team of juniors Colby Slaughter and Clay Graber (14-12).
Fresh off its 15th straight regional team championship, Washburn Rural will take its entire team to the 6A state tournament at Wichita’s Riverside Tennis Complex. First-round matches will start at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
Rural will be represented at state in singles by senior Matt Murray (16-8) and sophomore Tanner Driggers (23-8) and in doubles by senior Reid Osborn and sophomore Nathan Osborn (18-5) and juniors Brenden Garland and Kyle Beard (23-8).
Topeka High will send sophomore singles player Matt Gonzales (20-12) to state along with the doubles team of senior David Gernon and freshman Christopher Gernon (21-11).
Topeka High — Singles: Matt Gonzales, so, 20-12. Doubles: David Gernon, sr., and Christopher Gernon, fr., 21-11.
Washburn Rural — Singles: Matt Murray, sr., 16-8; Tanner Driggers, so., 23-8. Doubles: Reid Osborn, sr., and Nathan Osborn, so., 18-5; Brenden Garland, jr., and Kyle Beard, jr., 23-8.
Seaman — Singles: Todd Rilinger, sr., 20-5. Doubles: Grant Boyd, jr., and Cameron Waters, jr., 16-8; Ryder Chaffee, sr., and Mike Latendresse, fr., 16-7.
Shawnee Heights — Doubles: Colby Slaughter, jr., and Clay Graber, jr., 14-12.
Topeka West — Singles: Nico Gomez, jr., 18-17. Doubles: Tyler Shima, sr., and Kyler Cunningham, jr., 22-17.
Hayden — Singles: Tommy Hunter, so., 30-2; Blake Hunter, sr., 24-4. Doubles: Josh Russell, sr., and Ben Heath, jr., 16-15.