PUEBLO – Aimee Keronen had a little juice in her step Saturday as she ventured back down to Court 1 at Pueblo City Park. The Niwot assistant coach was trying to track the big picture of the Class 4A boys tennis tournament while other coaches tended to the players. Of all the things that needed to go Niwot’s way it was Cheyenne Mountain’s win over Mullen in No. 1 doubles that was the most important.
And when Cheyenne Mountain emerged victorious, Niwot’s quest for its first boys tennis championship rested on the shoulders of its top player.
A Neil Wilcox win in No. 1 singles and the Cougars are champs.
“My math is right, isn’t it”? she said to no one in particular.
“If it’s not, then neither of us can count,” someone replied.
The math proved to be right as Wilcox knocked off Greeley West sophomore Nico Jamison to repeat as the top singles champion and also give the Cougars the 4A team title.
“I had no idea until I walked off the court after my match,” Wilcox said. “Everyone was screaming and I just looked at them and asked what happened. When they told me, I couldn’t believe it.”
In hindsight, the math was pretty easy. All Niwot needed was a win in No. 1 and No. 3 singles and a Mullen loss in No. 1 doubles. Cheyenne Mountain, last year’s team champion, hadn’t advanced any singles players to finals and also missed out on advancing its No. 3 doubles team.
Mullen had a chance to gain some ground at No. 2 singles, but also needed wins in No. 1 and 3 doubles to ensure a state title.
The Cougars just put their heads down and tried to take care of their own business. Luke Weber got the win in No. 3 singles by knocking off Aspen’s Chase Kelly 6-2, 6-2.
“I wanted to take him out early,” Weber said. “I knew in order to have a shot at the state title for the team I had to come up clutch. And Neil had to win his for sure. I’m super happy that I won, and we got enough points to do it.”
Wilcox started his day with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Longmont’s Henry Matheson before advancing to face Jamison, who broke Wilcox’s serve in the first game and went on to take the first set in a tiebreaker.
That’s nothing new for Wilcox — who dropped his first set last year to Cheyenne Mountain’s Joey Geisz. And like last year, Wilcox came back and dominated the next two sets 6-1, 6-2 to end his career at Niwot as the best No. 1 singles player in the state.
“I feel like I earned this one a lot more than I did last year,” Wilcox said. “Joey Geisz was a great player, but I’ve known Nico Jamison for a really long time and he’s put in a lot of work.”
Niwot’s No. 2 doubles team of Xavier Moy and Alan Wilcox advanced to the state championship match, but lost 6-1, 6-3 to Cheyenne Mountain’s Carver Ward and Miles Hoover.
This year’s format was slightly adjusted due to COVID-19, but NHS head coach Mikka Keronen doesn’t think things would’ve ended any differently had this been any other year.
“Every boy who lost, lost to someone who went to the finals,” he said. “I think the score would’ve been the same because everyone would have been in playbacks. But I will say this was more pressure and I kind of liked it.”
Which is a bit of an understatement. When his team got their hands on the championship trophy, he loved it.