Follow the leader: Hegtrom’s team-first attitude earns coach’s praise

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Grand Junction High School sophomore Spencer Weinberg is back at No. 1 singles and ready to compete for a state title.



Grand Junction HIgh School’s Parker Hegstrom leads a core group of returning players back for the Tigers this season.



QUICKREAD

Central

Coach: David Elliott (2nd year)

Returning varsity players: 7

Returning state qualifiers: none.

Outlook: Austin Krebbel returns to play singles, with sophomore Jessi Nordstrom, junior Caleb Brown and freshman Drake Giese challenging for the other singles spots. Four freshmen will play varsity this season.

Fruita Monument

Coach: Clint Davis (2nd year)

Returning varsity players: 5

Returning state qualifiers: Antonio Pestelllo (Sr., No. 3 singles), Vinny Castellini (Jr., No. 2 doubles), Ryan Hautzinger (Sr., No. 3 doubles), Tanner McKenzie (Jr., No. 4 doubles).

Outlook: The Wildcats lost nine of their top 14 players from last year, but have veterans playing singles. Davis hopes to qualify as many players as possible for state.

Grand Junction

Coach: Carol Elliott (11th year)

Returning varsity: 6

Returning state qualifiers: Spencer Weinberg (Soph., No. 1 singles), Parker Hegstrom (Sr., No. 2 singles), Gabe Campos (Jr., No. 2 doubles), Luke Ledebur (So., No. 2 doubles), Tate Hegstrom (Jr., No. 3 doubles), Caleb Gartner (Jr., No. 3 doubles).

Outlook: With six returning state qualifiers, including two singles players, the Tigers could qualify the entire lineup for state again and place high as a team.



Parker Hegstrom knows about leadership.

He recently applied to be an Eagle Scout and is a mentor in the Grand Junction High School Links Program. He is getting a chance to show his leadership skills as the only senior for the Tigers’ boys tennis team.

“Parker’s been with us the last three years,” Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said. “He knows what it takes to excel. He knows what it takes to be a team and we’re all about team. The better connected we are as a team the better we do as a team. He realizes that and knows that.”

Hegstrom leads a Grand Junction team with six returning state qualifiers looking to improve on its 11th-place finish in the Class 5A state tournament last year.

“We’re looking good,” Hegstrom said. “All the top spots have been very competitive matches throughout tryouts. We have a deep team.

“Personally, as a team, this will be the best year in all my four years. We’ve had some great players in the past, but we are solid all the way through (the lineup).”

The boys tennis season officially started Thursday, but none of the three local programs have a match until next week. Fruita plays Tuesday at Montrose, then hosts Grand Junction on Sept. 26.

The Western Slope Invitational is slated for Sept. 10-11. Regionals must be completed by Oct. 9 and state is Oct. 14-16 at Gates Tennis Center in Denver.

“I’m excited for the season to begin,” Elliott said. “We have a great group of young kids and a lot of talent from last year is back. They’ll help our newbies down at the lower doubles.

“We did great last year with the group we had taking everybody to state. That will be our goal again and we want to do better at state. I think we have the talent to do it.”

Hegstrom, who qualified for state at No. 2 singles last year, is playing No. 3 this season and looking for his best year yet.

Junior Luke Ledebur beat Hegstrom in a challenge match for the No. 2 singles spot. Ledebur defeated Hegstrom in two local tournaments this summer.

“I can’t do anything about that,” said Hegstrom of losing the No. 2 singles spot to Ledebur. “He is exponentially better (than last year).”

Ledebur, though, wasn’t able to beat Spencer Weinberg.

The sophomore is back at No. 1 singles for the Tigers, with a year of experience under his belt and his goals set higher than simply qualifying for state.

“It’s nice to have a young player at one as good as Spencer is, not only on the court, but he’s a great person,” Elliott said. “He’ll be one of our leaders. He did great things last year, gained a lot of experience and I know he’s expecting to do better at state this year.”


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