A SINGULARLY GOOD DAY
GJ claims regional, eyes state
It was a good day for the three Grand Junction singles players.
The threesome of Cal Hegstrom, Cameron Weckerly and Luke Aubert all qualified for state — again.
But there was a slight difference from last year.
There was a flip in spots at No. 1 and No. 2.
Weckerly, last year’s No. 1 singles player, turned in an impressive performance Friday, winning the Class 5A Region 5 title with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Henry Cox of Ponderosa
In the first set, Weckerly established his power game, ripping ground strokes and moving his opponent from side to side before tucking pinpoint winners into the baseline corners.
“I’d say it’s one of my better matches,” Weckerly said. “He came to the net a lot, so I tried to keep my shots lower, which led to some shots into the net, but when he wasn’t moving in I tried to keep it higher and deeper.”
Along with a good, consistent serve, Weckerly was in control throughout most of the match.
It’s the junior’s third straight trip to state — the second with the Tigers after moving from the Front Range, where he attended from Niwot.
Weckerly said he was a little disappointed with getting bumped out of No. 1 singles at the start of the season but he gave credit to Hegstrom for being the better player.
“I think Cal is a pretty good 1 and he deserves it because he beat me twice,” he said about the preseason challenge matches.
In the world of tennis, a drop from No. 1 to No. 2 singles should come fairly easily, but Weckerly admitted there were some early struggles.
“At the beginning of the season, after being at No. 1 singles (last year), I didn’t really bring my full game and I lost a few matches,” he said. “Now I’m back to playing like No. 1 singles.”
As for Hegstrom, the jump from No. 2 to No. 1 could have been a daunting challenge, but the junior handled it well.
Playing in the most powerful flight in high school tennis, Hegstrom has held his own against some top players.
In Friday’s finals he ran into one of Colorado’s best singles players in Ryan Neale.
The Ponderosa junior beat Hegstrom 6-1, 6-2, but Hegstrom still qualified for state for a third straight time. He did not have to play in a playback match.
“I’m fine with (second place), that kid is really good. I won a couple games off of him, which is great,” Hegstrom said.
He’s also adapted to the higher level of competition.
“It’s nice, I’ve grown over the years,” he said. “Going from No. 2 singles to No. 1 singles seems like a big jump, but I feel like I’ve molded into the position.”
Now he’s mentally prepared for state where he’ll see the best 5A has to offer.
“I’m looking forward to facing the tough competition over there,” he said.
Regional title for Aubert
Aubert cruised to a second straight regional title with a determined win over Fruita Monument senior Jackson Cesark.
The 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 win started off slowly for the Grand Junction junior when he fell behind 4-1 in the first set.
“Jackson came out very strong and I came out a little nervous, and I was playing a little tight,” Aubert said. “I just told myself I had to get more mentally tough, and I started moving my feet and playing looser.
“I think it’s great I won regionals two years in a row at No. 3 singles.
“I really feel like all my hard work is starting to pay off.”
Once Aubert got on a roll after those early nerves, he dominated the second set.
“What worked for me today was my serve because I’ve been having some difficulties with my serve recently,” he said. “Also, my mental game came in handy today.”
Cesark, who did not have a playback match, qualified for state with his second-place finish. He narrowly missed a state berth last year when he was at No. 1 doubles and the team settled for third place after losing the third set in the semifinals.
The Tigers’ No. 2 doubles team of Tommy Mahre and Max Weckerly also qualified for state after a second-place finish.
The two seniors had a tough go in the finals, losing 6-3, 6-2 to Tre Chudacauf and Ben Thompson of Rocky Mountain.
“Today was kind of an off day, we were trying to find that groove and I don’t think we ever found it,” Mahre said. “But hopefully we’ll get over to state and play better.”
After losing in the finals, the Tigers’ No. 1 doubles team of Max Nikkari and Riley King had a heartbreaking loss in the playbacks to Fruita Monument. The Wildcats’ team of Brandon Keller and Clark Ligon won the match 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 to earn the state berth.