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ALL-AREA GIRLS TENNIS: High focuses on being an all-around athlete

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Rocky Mount Academy's Julia High is the 2016 Telegram All-Area Girls' Tennis Player of the Year.

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By Ethan Joyce
Sports Writer

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Around Rocky Mount Academy, it is understood that Julia High is good at tennis. Not as many people got to see it in person.

High, a year-round athlete, gets a decent amount of spectators during her matches, but tennis is a long sport. Basketball and softball, the other two sports High plays, are easier on an attention. 

High has been the Eagles’ No. 1 singles player for five years, giving friends plenty of chances to witness her strength, but the gym and the diamond always had better attendance.

“Everyone kind of knew it more than they saw it,” High said.

What they also didn’t see was the amount of time it took for High to be the year-round athlete she wanted to be. High, this year’s Telegram All-Area Tennis Player of the Year, decided she didn’t want to focus on just tennis. 

It meant shuffling around her schedule, juicing her time to yield as much progress as possible. Taking over the varsity tennis team’s top spot as an eighth grader, some suggested that given her early success, she should just focus on it. High couldn’t bear it. She’d grown up playing the other sports, too.

“They are all different, and I love them all,” High said. “I am so glad I didn’t quit. I am the point guard on the basketball team and the catcher on the softball team, and you get something different out of all of them, too.

“And you don’t have to quit, but you kind of have to work harder. I would go straight from basketball to tennis and practice as much as I could, or I would serve during study hall. You have to devote your whole life to it if you want to play it all, and that’s what I did.”

Julia High’s mother and tennis coach, Gayle High, didn’t try to corral her daughter into playing year around. Instead, she let her decide at a young age. If she wanted to become strictly a tennis player, her mother had no problem driving to the Raleigh Racket Club for the junior tennis program. 

“That was her call,” Gayle High said. “I gave her the choice . . . she didn’t want to give up basketball, softball or cheerleading, and I am so glad she didn’t.”

The balancing act was difficult. But battling the time crunches were worth it. Julia High saw many positives from her hectic schedule.

Basketball taught her better footwork. Tennis coaches have told her that her feet never stop while she drifts around the court. And she developed her confidence just as much away from the tennis court as she did on it. As the catcher on the softball team, she became comfortable calling pitches and trusting herself at the plate. And on the basketball court, she was thrust into the starting varsity point guard role her freshman year.

“All of them teach you the never-quit attitude,” Julia High said. “You can never give up and you never know what is going to happen. The competitiveness of all of it is the same.”

Julia High won’t have to worry about battling all these athletics in college. She’ll focus on studying at whichever school she decides to attend. But she feels ready to combat many collegiate challenges, though, because she already knows she can manage it.

“I think I have done a good job at splitting up my time between a lot of things because all my coaches always told me that I should quit one of my sports and devote my time to tennis, and I never did,” Julia High said. “So I thought it was pretty cool how I could do it all.”

ALL-AREA TENNIS TEAM

Julia High, Sr., Rocky Mount Academy - High, an all-state qualifier last season, led the team to an 11-5 record and a semifinal berth in the Class 2-A tennis tournament. 

Sarah Bland, Sr., Rocky Mount High - The No. 1 player for the Gryphons made it to the regional doubles finals and the second round of the individual state tournament.

Grace Warner, Sr., Rocky Mount High - The No. 2 Rocky Mount player pushed to the second round of individuals and was Bland’s doubles partner.

Visa Gonzalez, Sr., Southern Nash High - Gonzalez finished 9-8 as the Firebirds’ top player.

Grayson Tanner, Jr., Northern Nash High - Tanner went a combined 12-4 switching between the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds for the Knights.

HONORABLE MENTION

Katie Moss, So., Rocky Mount High; Chelsea Lucas, Sr., Northern Nash; Caroline Broderick, Fr., Rocky Mount High; Carson Browder, Fr., Rocky Mount High; Nisaja Thomas, Fr., Northern Nash.


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