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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest tennis, golf off to swinging start

May 12, 2021 11:39AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest boys tennis team showed improvement in the early season matches against Juan Diego Catholic High. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High senior Alex Qi is a Utah’s No. 1 ranked youth table tennis champion, but these days he’s found on a much larger court.

He’s Hillcrest High’s No. 1 singles tennis player who walked onto the court as an inexperienced player his freshman year. 

“Table tennis translates in the sense of general form and my stroke,” said the graduating International Baccalaureate student. “I’m enjoying it, and as a team, we’re happy, wholesome and get along—plus we’re getting better.”

Hillcrest High’s boys tennis team is up against some of the 5A region’s and state’s top teams— Olympus, Skyline, Brighton, East—but eight-year Hillcrest head coach Robert James echoed Qi’s assessment.

“I was impressed that we came back, we were ready to go,” James said. “Some have played on their own, and I’m liking the progress I see and we’re showing that improvement.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Qi said tennis is “the only thing that kept me fit” and hopes to qualify for state and “win at least half my matches there.”

Of the 23 members on the team, 14 return with experience. Last spring, only one player graduated.

James said freshman Aarav Parikh has made an early impact on the team.

“It’s unusual for a freshman to come in and play varsity, but he’s getting along pretty good,” he said.

In doubles, James said that the Elbel twins have shown strength, but are playing with other partners. Senior Anthony Elbel has teamed up with sophomore Brian Yu and senior Alex Elbel is partners with senior Ian Tsai.

“Both teams are going to be tough; they’ll have an edge when it comes to outsmarting their opponents,” James said.

Also, off to a low-and-slow swinging start this season is the 21-member girls golf team.

While coach Dave Richardson expects the competition to be stiff against the same east-sided schools, he known his young team will be in for vast improvement.

“We have a lot of underclassmen who are new to golf, so there will be a big learning curve,” he said. 

Early in the season, he anticipated strong play coming from freshmen players Lola Nielsen and Kylie Powell.

Those girls will be led by seniors and team captains Jenna Riddle and Paris Freebairn. Joining them on the leaderboard, Richardson expects, will be sophomore Ava Perkins.

“We have three girls who are competitive, and I expect will go on to state,” he said. “For the majority, it will be the basic ABCs of golf: how to hold the club and how to swing. The kids all get along and support each other, but as far as playing, they will need to hit 100,000 balls before they get good, but initially, they will get better quickly. Then, we’ll see how they like it and how they are dedicated to make themselves better.”