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Golden Racket

Kelly Walsh's Finley Klinger returns the ball to Natrona County's Alexis Holscher during their No. 1 singles match in the Golden Racket last year at the Casper Country Club.

The Kelly Walsh girls tennis team has a long list of accomplishments this season.

The Trojans swept rival Natrona County in the Golden Racket two weeks ago and two days later handed Cody its first loss of the season. Last weekend Kelly Walsh edged Cody 60-59 to win the North Regional.

Now the Trojans have their sights set on doing something they haven’t done in 11 years – winning a state team championship.

“We’ve been talking about winning state since the beginning of the year,” Kelly Walsh head coach Buddy Johnson said. “Even at the first of the season I told the girls I wanted them to play well, but the early matches were just to get ready for what’s down the road.”

And that’s the Wyoming State High School Tennis Championships, which begin Thursday in Gillette.

Kelly Walsh, along with Cody and South Regional champ, and defending state champion, Cheyenne Central are the favorites, but Johnson knows it won’t be easy.

“It’s so hard to say because it’s dependent on how some of the other schools do,” he said, “but it should come down to us, Cody and Cheyenne Central. It takes a little bit of luck … anything can happen.”

While that’s true, the Trojans have to like their chances.

Freshman Finley Klinger is undefeated at No. 1 singles. So, too, are seniors Kailey Walker and Sage Dobby at No. 2 doubles and seniors Jada Collins and Sarah Griner at No. 3 doubles. Sophomore Lily Putnam’s only loss at No. 2 singles came to Cody’s Teagan Thompson, the defending state champ at No. 2 singles, at regionals last week. And the No. 1 doubles team of seniors Kylie Spangler and Josette Bowers are the defending state champs.

“These girls have been working hard since August and they’ve been consistent,” Johnson said. “Usually, there are peaks and valleys during the season, but these girls have seemed to play well every match. And we have a nice mix of young kids and seniors.”

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Last week Kelly Walsh had regional champs at No. 1 singles and No. 2 and No. 3 doubles, placed second at No. 2 singles and third at No. 1 doubles, but barely eked out the team title over Cody, which had just one regional champ. Central, on the other hand, won four regional titles and finished 33 points (63-30) clear of runner-up Cheyenne East.

“You can’t win state unless everybody does OK,” Johnson said. “You could win three titles and still not win state if the other teams don’t get you some points.”

That shouldn’t be a problem for the Trojans, who also stand to benefit from the brackets.

“If things go well for us we won’t play Cody or Central until the semifinals or finals,” Johnson said, “but we’ve got to get there first.”

Central, Jackson boys are the teams to beat

On the boys side of the ledger, regional champs Cheyenne Central and Jackson enter state as the teams to beat.

Both teams captured three titles at regionals, with Central getting wins from Ryan Stampfli in No. 2 singles, Ryan Foster and Elijah Norgauer in No. 1 doubles and Benjamin Bush and Brock Storebo in No. 2 doubles. For Jackson, Steven Ashurst (No. 2 singles), Jackson Santomauro and Brooks Bradford (No. 1 doubles) and George Gervais and Christopher Rosen (No 2 doubles) won regional titles.

Cheyenne South junior Brendon Lock is back to defend his championship in No. 1 singles.

Neither Kelly Walsh nor Natrona County figure to be factors in the team race, although both could come home with individual medalists. NC senior Ben Radosevich in No. 1 singles and the KW No. 3 doubles team of junior Sye Meyer and senior Zach Durtsche look to be the best bets.

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Sports Editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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