PUEBLO — Winning state tennis championships in Pueblo has become something of a Ross family tradition.
Ever since Kent Denver senior Casey Ross was strong enough to hold a racket, he had been running around Pueblo City Park striking anything that resembled a ball. His older brother Cory was on a nearby court, coming away with Class 4A No. 1 singles titles in 1998 and 1999.
Saturday, Ross matched his brother’s back-to-back feat with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Peak to Peak’s Brett Finan. Kent Denver also won the 4A tennis tournament as a team.
And in a reversal of roles, it was Cory hanging off to the side.
“It makes it so much more special to be able to follow in his footsteps,” Casey said. “Being able to do what he did here, and he came down to watch me which just made it even more special.”
Little brother does have one distinct edge, though. Kent Denver came away with its fourth-straight team title. In Cory’s entire time at Kent Denver he only won a split of a team title in 1999, his senior year.
But still, the brothers shared an embrace and they now share a place in Colorado state tennis history.
When Sun Devils coach Randy Ross could, he was checking in on his youngest son while sprinting from match to match, trying to help out the other members of the team just as he would Corey or Casey, back in the day.
“I think he uses that to get more into it,” Casey said. “When all the matches are going on, he wants to see everything going on at once. He’s just all over the place.”
And he had a lot to see.
The Sun Devils were playing in six of seven championship matches. And when the dust had settled, they came away six individual championships and, of course, the overall team title.
“This is the first time (in school history) for four in a row, so that was pretty cool,” Randy said. "This group of boys, they worked hard and they deserved it so I was happy for them."
Even coming away with a loss to Ross, Finan – a sophomore – will get at least two more chances at glory. Knowing the deck was stacked against him coming into the final, he just wanted to put his best foot forward.
“I just wanted to win as many games as possible,” Finan said. “I like playing players that are better than me. I have nothing to lose.”
This year's 4A sportsmanship award went to Valor Christian.
With the teams departing from Pueblo City Park, there was a feeling of a chapter of Kent Denver’s fine tennis legacy coming to a glory-filled end.
For the second time of his life, Randy Ross got to congratulate his son on winning a championship in the last match of his high school career.
“This is his 18th state championship,” Randy said. "He's been here every year since he was born. So he knows this, he loves this, we love it together."
In the fall, Casey will pack up his stuff and head to Dartmouth where he will compete on the tennis team. That is another way that he differs from his brother. Cory played his college tennis at LSU.
Big brother went SEC and little brother went Ivy League.
But they both earned their merits on the same court. And they both left the gates at Pueblo City Park with championship gold.