Camas and Columbia River won team titles, Union had a doubles champion, and the region is celebrating a wave of tennis talent
The coaches of the state champions were state champions themselves back in the day.
Annie Sumpter, then known as Anne Arndt, won the singles title in 1977 for the Camas Papermakers.
Kevin Erickson went to Ridgefield High School, winning three consecutive singles titles in the early 2000s.
They’ve been around a long time. They’ve seen a lot of tennis. They have never witnessed what happened last weekend.
“I’ve been in this area my entire life,” said Erickson, the head coach of Columbia River tennis. “That was probably the most impressive day for Clark County tennis, by far.”
“This is pretty incredible,” Sumpter said. “It was quite an eventful weekend. It took me a couple of days to recover.”
The region has had plenty of champions, individuals, doubles, and teams, through the years. But on Saturday, there were just so many champions crowned on the same day.
The Columbia River Rapids won the Class 2A girls tennis team title, led by doubles champions Grace Rudi and Lauren Dreves. The Camas Papermakers, led by singles champion Hailey Kerker, won the Class 4A girls tennis team title.
Oh, and the Union boys doubles team of Jacob Flentke and James Bertheau won the Class 4A title.
Southwest Washington’s championship day was special but not a shocking development. The coaches say it is a combination of a wave of talent, plus the junior coaching the athletes have received.
“I think it’s hard to pinpoint one thing,” Erickson said. “You’ve got a lot of kids who are obviously talented. The resources at the Vancouver Tennis Center have allowed them to really develop. It’s timing. It’s talent and having the resources.”
“Most of the girls that we have who went to the postseason, they train at VTC,” Sumpter said. (The program also has players who work out at the Evergreen Tennis Club in Camas.)
“VTC has been running a great junior program there. And these girls are hard workers. They’re committed to the sport. They work hard at it,” Sumpter said. “What I’ve seen at VTC … they just run great junior programs there.”
The high school programs are benefitting.
Columbia River has now won back-to-back team state titles. Well, maybe not back-to-back because there were no state tournaments in 2020 and 2021. But the Rapids won it all in 2019 and repeated in 2022.
They were led by Rudi and Dreves.
“They’re talented, but you need more than just that,” Erickson said. “They were on a mission this year. They just put a lot of time in it. They approached the game the right way. They had a goal, and they took the proper steps to get to that point. They took concrete steps to make sure they achieved their goals.”
Sumpter felt like 1977 all over again. She was part of Camas’ first team title, too, that year. When Kerker won the championship match on Saturday, the emotions came flooding back to Sumpter.
“I ran out on the court and gave her a hug. I was in tears,” the coach said. “She’s just a wonderful young lady. She’s 14. She has the mindset of a champion. She really does. She is so mentally tough. Physically, she is just ‘game on.’ She is a fighter. It was amazing.”
Yes, 14 years old. Kerker is a freshman.
Her twin sister Taryn Kerker teamed up with sophomore Jace Moriki to finish fourth in the state doubles bracket.
Back at Columbia River, Rudi is a senior while Lauren Dreves is a sophomore. Emma Lungwitz, a freshman, finished sixth in the 2A singles bracket. Evie Wenger, a sophomore, and freshman Sydney Dreves made it to state as doubles partners. Senior Ari Domniti also made it to state in singles.
The Rapids will lose two to graduation, but the rest are expected to be back next year.
So this is not just a wave of talent in Clark County for one season. This is young talent. Expect to see more top finishes in the future.
“These kids have been working for a while. I’m not surprised at all by this,” Erickson said. “I’ve known of the Kerkers for years. I’m not surprised they are starting to make a name for themselves.”
The 2A championships, held in Seattle, became more special for Erickson because the Rapids had so many family members and friends who showed up to enjoy the experience.
“It felt chaotic. It was a fun chaos,” Erickson said. “Everyone was so happy. From my perspective, it was kind of a blur. Everyone felt so extremely happy.”
Sumpter said this was a dream season for her dream job.
“These girls and parents, they thank us for coaching them. Honestly, I feel so lucky to get to do this. It brings me such joy,” Sumpter said.
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