Blazing a new trail

GJ's Campos advances to Western Slope semis for 1st time

Grand Junction’s Carolena Campos, top, returns a shot Friday during her 6-2, 6-0 victory over Heritage’s Caitlin Hearty in the quarterfinals of the Western Slope Open at the Elliott Tennis Center. Campos was one of only two District 51 entrants to advance to today’s semifinals. Joining the Tigers’ senior in the semifinal is the No. 1 doubles team from Grand Junction.

Her senior year has been one filled with trying new things.

Last fall, Carolena Campos ran on the Grand Junction High School girls cross-country team for the first time.

This winter, she went out for the Tigers’ girls swim team for the first time.

This spring, she will compete on Grand Junction’s track and field team for the first time.

Oh, and she’s playing girls tennis, but that’s not new. She’s in her fourth season as the Tigers’ No. 1 singles player, but even there she’s about to do something new. Campos won her first two matches Friday in the Western Slope Open, which puts her in today’s semifinals, a round she has not reached in three previous tries in the tournament.

“It’s a feeling of accomplishment,” said Campos, who won her opening match 6-3, 6-1, then prevailed 6-2, 6-0 in her quarterfinal against Heritage’s Caitlin Hearty. “I mean, not yet, because we have a whole season to go, but I’m happy to get it started off like this.”

Campos was a rarity Friday as she was one of only two singles players from District 51 to win a first-round match — Fruita Monument’s Mia Maynard at No. 3 was the other — and Campos was the only one to get to the semifinals.

A mere three doubles teams from District 51 won first-round matches: Grand Junction’s Jessi Smith and Payton Staats at No. 1; Fruita Monument’s Sofia Treider and Alexa Jo Willms at No. 1; and Grand Junction’s Cailin Boardwine and Kamryn Peltier at No. 2.

Smith and Staats were the only duo to follow with a quarterfinal win, which came at the expense of Treider and Willms in three sets, 6-7, 6-2, (10-1).

Campos said her new endeavors this year gave her a break from tennis and a chance to compete in sports she won’t have the chance to compete in again.

“I just thought that it’s my senior year, and I wanted to try new things,” she said.

Friends talked her into running and swimming, and Campos said the experiences were fun, and she made a lot of new friends. She also learned how hard some other athletes work, adding, “Swimming’s the hardest sport I’ve ever done.”

Campos may not have been swinging a tennis racket as much in the offseason, but her tennis game is benefitting from running and swimming.

“It helped my endurance so much,” Campos said.

She’s also stronger physically and mentally. She said the mental preparation she encountered before cross-country races comes into play in tennis. And her mental toughness in general is better.

When things get tough in any competition, “You have to move on,” Campos said. “Don’t drown yourself on the last point.”

Campos may be incorporating that in her semifinal today. She will play Mountain Vista’s Casey Zhong, whom Campos has faced once before in a tournament a year ago. She said Zhong “beat me pretty easily,” but Campos welcomes the rematch.

“I’m excited to play her again,” she said. “I want to see what a year difference can make, see where I’ve come from since last year.”


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