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State tennis: Hedberg to close out legendary coaching career at state

By RICK PETERSON

TopSports.news

Washburn Rural tennis coach Kevin Hedberg will bring down the curtain on a legendary coaching career in Friday and Saturday's Class 6A state tournament at College Boulevard Activity Center, but Hedberg is doing his best to put the significance of the weekend aside and concentrate on his team and the task at hand. 

"I don't really think about that,'' Hedberg said of his impending retirement after 43 years. "I just hope we play well. If you survive to Saturday you've had a good run.

"It's been a terrific year. The girls season was terrific and the boys season has matched it. The city tie with West and the (Centennial) League championship and the regional championship were great and we played our best last Friday as a team and that's always a good thing.''

FO ccLdXwAMKrUBLongtime Washburn Rural tennis coach Kevin Hedberg (left) will close out his legendary coaching career in this weeken's Class 6A boys state tennis tournament. [File photo/TSN]L

 Hedberg just wants to relish one last weekend with his beloved Junior Blues.

"The boys are really excited (about state),'' Hedberg said. "It's been a wonderful group, really diverse, different interests and really good, successful kids in a lot of different areas.''

Undefeated senior singles player Mason Thieu said the Junior Blues want to do everything they can to send Hedberg off with one last memorable performance.

"It's definitely tough,'' Thieu said. "I feel a little more pressure to do well for him for his last year. We're just trying to enjoy every minute of it.

"We're just trying to take every step of the way and enjoy every step. Winning everything so far has been nice because we're sending him off on a good note.''

Senior Nick Luetje, who teamed with senior Kyler Knudtson to win the regional doubles title, agreed.

"It kind of is (sad), but considering the postseason run that we've had so far, it's really special that he's going to go out with a senior class and a team like we have right now,'' Luetje said. "We've obviously got one more meet and we've just got to go do what we've done all year, which is hopefully to come back with a KSHSAA trophy so he can leave on a high note.''

Hedberg has coached five state championship teams at Rural (four boys and one girls), as well as singles and doubles champions in both boys and girls tennis and a long list of city and Centennial League title teams.

Rural qualfied its entire team for state, with Thieu (24-0) and junior Mason Casebeer (23-5) finishing one-two at singles while Luetje and Knudtson improved to 18-4 with their regional title and seniors Jiyoon Park and Zach Willingham (19-6) finished third.

Luetje, a returning state placer, said that Rural is extremely close knit as a team, largely because of the 70-year-old Hedberg, who is finishing his 32nd season at Rural after 11 years at Seaman. 

"I think what really makes him special for us as a team is that he has really made us buy into the team mentality,'' Luetje said. "At regionals we played a really tough match against a really good team from Manhattan and all of our guys are cheering for us and we come off the court and we cheer along with Hedberg for our guys that are still out on the court along. I think buying into the team itself has really helped us and has really helped our top six jell together really well.  I think we're all considered family at this point because we've been around each other so long and are around each other so much.

"We love each other's company and it's obviously going to be sad when he leaves but I think it will be a great sendoff for such a great coach.''

State competition will get under way at 10:30 a.m. Friday and will continue at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

CLASS 5A AT KOSSOVER TENNIS CENTER

Ten city players earned berths for Friday and Saturday's 5A state tournament at Kossover Tennis Center, led by regional team champion Topeka West, which qualified its entire team.

Topeka West juniors Ian and Miles Cusick and Charger senior Gavin Chavez and junior Carter Cool went one-two in doubles at regionals, with the Cusicks improving to 33-4 and Chavez and Cool improving to 29-9.

West sophomores James Maag (26-14) and Caden McGee (22-14) qualified for state in singles with runner-up and fifth-place regiona finishes.

Shawnee Heights has three state qualifiers, with seniors Christian Johnson and Garrison Johnson (18-9) finishing third in doubles in the De Soto regional whle senior Jaden Rodriguez (19-7) finished fourth in singles.

Seaman will be represented at state by senior singles player Justin Kruse (21-10), who posted a third-place regional finish.

CLASS 4A AT WINFIELD

Hayden will travel to Winfield for the state meet after winning a 4A regional title and qualifying its entire team for state.

Wildcat senior Michael Sandstrom and junior Gus Glotzbach (27-9) won the regional doubles championship while Hayden senior Patrick Gorman and sophomore Joseph Luke (11-19) took second.

Hayden senior Tyler Broxterman (17-18) qualified for state with a third-place singles finish at regionals while senior Drew Morgan (8-19) placed sixth.