Luke Farney hits a shot during his Summer Tennis Championships match Saturday against Mirko Erspamer.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Luke Farney hits a shot during his Summer Tennis Championships match Saturday against Mirko Erspamer.

Steamboat Springs High School: A tennis dynasty

Boys and girls teams dominate regional titles

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Mirko Erspamer hits a shot during his Summer Tennis Championships match Saturday against Luke Farney.

Tournament results

For results from the Summer Tennis Championships:

Friday's matches

Saturday's matches

— One year constitutes a good start. Back-to-back good years can be the prelude to dominance.

But what the Steamboat Springs High School girls and boys tennis teams have accomplished during the past decade or so are the things dynasties are made of.

The boys team has won 12 straight regional titles. The girls team has won six straight. A lot has gone into those runs of success.

For one, there’s the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, one of the premier facilities in the state. There are the junior programs that run year-round, molding young players into competitive giants.

But perhaps nothing serves as a better example of the success of the local programs than what was on display Saturday during the second day of the Summer Tennis Championships.

The tournament, put on by the Steamboat Tennis Association, serves as the biggest fundraiser for the junior and high school programs.

One look across the courts and it was easy to see why Steamboat has become the pre-eminent tennis town on the Western Slope.

More than 30 junior players, current high school players and former high school players dotted the courts.

“You know what it is,” said C.J. Burger, who has had three children go through the junior program as well as three who are still in the junior program. “We’re a town of 12,000 or 13,000, and to have a facility like this … it’s the passion from the people that run it and it goes to the kids. From the top down, everybody here loves the game so much it passes it down to the kids that start at a young age.”

As soon as the tennis program got its start in Steamboat, it instantly started to see results. But because it was designated a Tier II sport, funding was an issue. But with tournaments such as the Summer Tennis Championships that typically raise more than $15,000 for the junior and high school programs, Steamboat tennis started to find its niche.

“What brings people back is they have a good shot at making the varsity,” said Mirko Ers­­­pamer, who will be a senior in the fall. “It’s fair. The cool thing about our school is we’re competitive in every sport.”

In the past four years, Steam­boat has won multiple state championships. Molly Weiss, Kylee Swiggart, Sara Bearss and Ramsey Bernard all have staked claim as state champions.

It’s that competitiveness and result­­­ing success that drives the program.

“You hear how they’re really successful,” said Corbin Diehl, who is in the junior program and will be a freshman at Steamboat Springs High School in the fall. “It’s just a bunch of good guys coming out and playing tennis. It’s a great tennis program. (High school coaches) Don (Toy) and John (Aragon) do a great job.”

And winning doesn’t hurt.

There is a pride in winning every year that resonates. The girls team wants to catch the boys and their 12 straight regional titles, and the boys team doesn’t want to be the group to snap the streak.

“Once we started winning, we taught it to the younger ones,” said Brian Aragon, who graduated from Steamboat in 2007 but returned for the Summer Tennis Championships. “Everyone that comes through gets put through the ringer and made tough mentally and physically. The better we got meant everyone has better kids to play.”

It doesn’t look like the dynasty will be stopped anytime soon, evidence by the quality of play Saturday.

Take Burger. He’s seen the Steam­­boat programs in action. He has one son playing collegiate tennis, two playing high school in the fall with legitimate shots at state championships and three in the junior program.

“A lot of that has to do with people at this bubble,” he said, referring to the Tennis Center.

The Summer Tennis Champ­ionships continue at 8 a.m. today at the Tennis Center.

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