No. 2s are No. 1 at 3A tennis championships |

No. 2s are No. 1 at 3A tennis championships

The 3A Utah High School State Boys Tennis Championships are always exciting for Park City. After all, the Miners have won more state titles in the last decade than most schools will muster in 50 years. But this year, things were not only exciting, but also a little surprising.

The first surprise wasn’t exactly the most pleasant one. After regular-season and Region 10 showdowns with Judge Memorial where Park City triumphed both times, the Bulldogs finally found a way to win and did so in grand fashion, winning the state championship at Brigham Young University on Saturday. That left the Miners in a second-place tie with Logan the same team they shared the state title with last year.

"It’s good," said Park City head coach Schuyler "Scooter" Mastain. "It makes us realize that they are great teams and we have to push through State. We have to work harder."

Blame it on unlucky draws or small lapses of confidence, but ultimately it was a state title that could have gone to any of the three top schools who were nearly deadlocked throughout the entire tournament. In the end though, it was Judge that finished up with two individual state titles in No. 2 and No. 3 singles, while Park City, Logan and Ogden had one apiece.

Mastain said that after the semifinal round, the competition could have gone any way, but key wins helped the Bulldogs capture the win.

"This made me realize what teams we need to play against more next year in the regular season," Mastain said.

But the Miners didn’t waste too much time worrying about the lost state crown. Instead they choose to focus on the big surprises of the weekend, including an individual state title in No. 2 doubles and a second-place finish for freshman John Packham in No. 2 singles.

During the regular season, the No. 2 doubles duo of Tommy Clark and Eric Pace would generally be the last team on the court in any match, playing three sets before capturing the win or coming very close. But in the state finals, the two put long matches behind them, swiftly pushing their way through the tournament brackets with convincing two-set wins.

The difference?

Clark said it was all mental.

"We got our head game straight," Clark said. "[In the regular season] we would win our first set and think we had it and lose the second."

He said that a little pressure didn’t hurt either.

"We were seniors," Clark said. "We wanted it really bad."

The two have been playing together since their freshmen year.

"It’s all about momentum," Pace said. "If you play hard from start to finish, you win."

Packham was the other story of the day as the young player unwittingly played his way past some of the top prep players in the state to finish second in No. 2 singles.

"That is 1,000 times better than anything I could have imagined," he said.

The best part of the story is that, up until two weeks ago, Packham was a junior varsity player. But when the usual starter, Blake Barcus, went down with an injury in the dual meet with Judge, Packham stepped in and took his place at the Region 10 championships. There, he took third and gave the Miners just enough points to edge Judge out for the region title. Then on Saturday, he went from stopgap to state tourney star with his laid-back style of play.

"I had nothing to lose," Packham said. "My confidence was never down."

The Miners will need players like Packham stepping up next season as they lose five seniors to graduation this year. Mastain said that the underclassmen are already looking forward to the chance to prove themselves, just as Packham did.

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