Eastern Idaho was well-represented by its doubles teams at the high school state tennis championships.
Of the 19 area doubles teams to advance to state in 4A and 5A, five placed on Day 2.
Two teams won state titles. The Idaho Falls High School duo of Maddie Maloney and Jesse Haas, who formed a team for the first time this season, won the 5A mixed doubles title 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 over Meridian’s Hannah Uhlenkott and David Galway, and Blackfoot High School’s senior duo of Tanner Norton and Jacob Harris concluded an undefeated season by winning the 4A boys doubles title 7-6, 6-2 over Middleton.
Norton and Harris, who took runner-up in 2013, formed a solid team for the Broncos despite different tennis backgrounds.
Blackfoot tennis coach Brett Jeffris has known Norton since he started participating in Jeffris’ summer tennis camps in second grade, and he always hoped Norton would stick with tennis.
“Every year I said, ‘Tanner, you’re not gonna play baseball, are you?’ ” Jeffris said. “He has instinct about the ball I’ve never seen before.”
Harris started playing tennis the summer after eighth grade and met Jeffris through summer tennis camps. Harris’ determination immediately stood out to Jeffris, and still does.
“I said, ‘Jacob, you’re probably not gonna make varsity your first year,’ ” Jeffris said. “Boy, did he prove me wrong. He made varsity and then some easily. He took that as a challenge.”
Harris played singles for the first two matches of the season. After seeing how much Norton had worked over the previous year, he decided to team up with him again. The undefeated season made them the latest in a long line of Blackfoot state champion doubles teams that have contributed to five state trophies in seven years. Both graduated top 10 in their class and are leaving this summer to serve LDS missions.
“The combination of Tanner owning the net and his serving and Jacob’s ground strokes and their teamwork, it just all came together,” Jeffris said. “They work really hard. Undefeated is tough because we compete against 5A schools. It’s excellent to show everybody what Blackfoot can do.”
Also placing in 4A was the Bonneville High School duo of Hailey Clayton and Justin Fullmer, who took third in mixed doubles after winning a two hour and 55 minute match 6-1, 6-7, 6-4 against Columbia.
Both had backgrounds playing doubles. Clayton, a senior, teamed up with Sean Harker last minute at state and ended up taking fourth in mixed doubles in 2013. Fullmer, a junior, advanced to state in 2013 in boys doubles with Tyler Lindley.
Teaming them up was an easy decision for Bonneville head tennis coach Trisha Chatterton.
“They were heads and tails above everybody else,” Chatterton said. “We wanted to give them the best chance to win. They knew in their heads, ‘This is gonna work with us.’”
The week following their 7-6, 6-4 4A District 5-6 mixed doubles title win over Blackfoot’s Baylee Gorder and Scott Cannon, Clayton and Fullmer had a private lesson with Apple Athletic Club tennis instructor Holger Nickel. Chatterton credited that lesson for helping Clayton and Fullmer excel at state, especially in the second and third sets against Columbia.
“They had so much fight in them in that second set,” Chatterton said. “We had a 10 minute break and got them water and hydrated. They said, ‘We can do this.’ I was proud of them the way they’d get down a game, come back and fight two more.”
Clayton graduated and secured a spot on a national competitive cheerleading team. Fullmer is an incoming senior and Chatterton said his contributions next season are to be determined.
Chatterton said Clayton and Fullmer meshed because of their willingness to help each other and stay upbeat.
“They’re always lifting each other up,” Chatterton said. “Even if they’re down, they emotionally stay even keeled.”
Rounding out the local placers were two Idaho Falls teams. Hannah Wright and Bryant Johnson fell 7-5, 6-1 to Centennial to take fourth place in 5A mixed doubles and teammates and twin sisters Jordan and Madi Wright fell 6-2, 6-3 to Timberline in 5A girls doubles.
I.F. head coach Tollan Whitlock said the Wright twins progressed significantly since becoming a doubles team last year.
“They were not getting along very well with one another (last year),” Whitlock said. “They were yelling at each other. It was not a pretty scene. In the past year, they have been able to work out their differences and have united to be a strong tennis team.”
I.F. graduated 10 athletes this spring. The Wright twins are incoming juniors, and Whitlock is optimistic about their future.
“We’re hoping they come in with a victory next year and finish no. 1 as state champs,” Whitlock said.