Young tennis player shines

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— Last weekend turned out to be a memorable one for rising tennis star Jamey Swiggart.

"It was a very big tournament for me," Jamey said. "It was a good experience, and I never imagined that I would win that many matches."

Jamey was one of three Steamboat Springs players to compete in the United States Tennis Association's Intermountain Tennis As--soc---iation's 12-and-under Champ-ionships, which were held at the Tennis Center.

Jamey, who will turn 11 at the end of July, played up a division, facing older and often stronger players.

"I want to compete against better players," he said. "The best way to do that is to play up a division."

That's why the young tennis player was surprised that his only loss of the weekend came in the semifinal round to top-seed Stephen Mullennex of Colorado Springs. Stephen beat Jamey in two sets, 6-2, 6-1, en route to the championship tilt.

"I try not to pay attention to their size," Jamey said. "But he was a foot taller than me."

Instead of focusing on his opponent's age and size, the Steamboat player prefers to find his opponent's weaknesses.

"In warm-ups, I'm always looking for the other guy's weakness," Jamey said. "Everybody has one, and to win, you have to find it quickly."

After falling to Stephen, Jamey rebounded by defeating Niwot's Andrew Hefter, 6-3, 6- 3, on Monday. The Memorial Day victory gave the Steamboat players third place in the most prestigious junior tournament of the season to be held in Steamboat.

Meanwhile, Stephen was upset in the finals by No. 2 seed Jack Reynolds of Littleton. Jack won the match, 6-4, 6-2.

Jamey made his way through the tournament brackets by posting a number of impressive victories against Scott Strachan of Evergreen, Mathew Hefter of Niwot, and Mitchell Smith of Henderson, Nev.

The showing should help him as he looks forward to several key tournaments this summer.

Jamey is scheduled to play in the Sectional Championships, which are scheduled to take place in Denver in two weeks, and the national-level Zonal Championships in Omaha, Neb., in July.

Jim Swiggart, director of The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, said it was a strong showing for his son, who was one of the youngest players in the tournament. He thinks the result will improve Jamey's seeding in several upcoming events this summer.

The event drew 52 of the top junior tennis players from Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada and Montana for four days of tennis in the Yampa Valley.

In addition to Jack Reynolds, Brittney Ricci of Parker also pocketed a prestigious junior title.

Brittney defeated Morgan An--derson of St. George, Utah, to win the girls division, and Lindsay Barlow finished third.

Christi Valicenti and Brett Gordon also represented Steamboat in the tournament. All three Steamboat players were nominated for this year's sportsmanship award along with visiting players Kaley Carmichael, Aaron Lapkin, Joe Weaver, Erin Gebes, Krista Anderson and Kieko Kasho.

Kaley and Brett won the sportsmanship awards at this year's tournament.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussel@steamboatpilot.com

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