Jarrod Nowak is no stranger in competing in state for the McPherson High School boys tennis team. He's been down that road for the past three years, coming up short for each of those years. The difference now is that he will be the only one representing the Bullpups with higher stakes when he focuses on the Class 5A State Tournament this weekend at Topeka.
All three years, Nowak played a role in the Bullpup's success in the tennis court. Last year, his second-place finish in singles led the Bullpups to win the Class 4A State Championship. Nowak made the top six.
Nowak had a successful senior season. He is going into the tournament with a 33-1 record with a chance of being the first Bullpup to win the singles championship in school history. Bullpup's Head Coach Tyler Brown admires his work ethic and the time he puts in every week.
"We are extremely proud of Jarrod and his accomplishments so far this year, but it is sad to say that our other five players didn't make it to state," Brown said. "But I will say the work ethic and time Jarrod has put into his game is unmatched by most in the state of Kansas."
When Nowak sees a court, he gets right to work. Even on McPherson's off days, he continues to practice on his game. He also takes private lessons and competes in summer matches during the offseason. This week, while McPherson been dealing with the thunderstorms, the tennis courts weren't in good condition to practice on. What did Nowak do? He drove down to Salina and practiced in Genesis Health Club's indoor tennis court. It's a place where Nowak is all too familiar with because that is where he practices in his spare time.
"That is a man on a mission. The senior leadership and example he sets every day to a very young team we hope will start to take root," Brown said. "I know with several players on the team, they want to be good and want to accomplish certain goals, but it doesn't just magically happen. You have to put the time in if you want to compete at the highest level."
Nowak will have to deal with some tough opponents in state. One who he already faced earlier this year. Adam Burke of St. James Academy gave Nowak his only loss. Nowak looked back on the loss, with the hope of meeting him again. Burke, at 28-3, is Class 5A's top player in the DeSoto Region.
"I will be getting redemption, but he played a good match," Nowak said. "He hit the ball well. He hits the ball really clean. He really got me out of my comfort zone and putting me out of position. I just got down early, and got into some trouble."
Other players Nowak mentioned that might make it far in the tournament are Pietro Perego, a foreign exchange student out of Topeka Seaman High School, Pierce Klaassen of Arkansas City and Jaryd Richardson of Andover. All are quality opponents that Nowak might have to face. He knows he needs to stay poise if he wants to get over the hump.
"I need to stay consistent, keeping the ball deep and keep the opponent from doing that to me," Nowak said.
After his high school career is over, Nowak will continue to play tennis at Newman University, after signing in last December.
"They have a good team and will be switching conferences next year to MIAA (Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association)," Nowak said.
With the love of math, he plans on studying accountant when he enrolls and likely to go to business school as well.
The state tournament will begin at 9 a.m. at the Topeka Kossover Tennis Center.
Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Petes_Picks_orour sports page @MacCountySports