DENVER — For some three-and-a-half hours Saturday morning — and early afternoon — Poudre’s Ky Ecton and Smoky Hill’s Anshika Singh poured their heart and soul into the fight for the Class 5A girls tennis No. 1 singles crown.
The juniors engaged in a back-and-forth marathon at Gates Tennis Center, leaving everything they had on West Center Court, and then some.
Finally, after three grueling sets in the heat — and long after every other match had concluded — Singh’s return on match point went long. That gave Ecton a 7-6 (13-11), 4-6, 6-4 victory and the moment she had wanted ever since coming up just short a year ago.
“Last year was a tough loss. Seraphin played awesome; she definitely deserved that match,” Ecton said of losing in the 2016 No. 1 singles finale to Fairview’s Seraphin Castelino. “But this year coming back and winning it … makes me feel really proud of myself for being able to fight that hard and grit through it.”
Poudre was one of six different schools to win an individual championship Saturday. The only program to win multiple titles was Cherry Creek, which claimed No. 3 and No. 4 doubles – along with the 5A team trophy for the 34th time in the school’s history.
Mountain Vista finished second, a first for the program, followed by Ponderosa and Denver East.
The Bruins had won 19 5A championships in a row before Fairview ended that run a year ago.
“When I started meeting with our seniors in September, that was something we continued to have as a motivator for us,” Cherry Creek coach Chris Jacob said. “The girls played in the offseason and got ready together; they had a tough challenge season, and that was a big deal.
“I really didn’t leave (last year) feeling like we lost that; I felt like Fairview won that.”
But before the Bruins could hold the team trophy aloft, the matter of the No. 1 singles final had to be decided. Neither Ecton nor Singh was willing to give an inch — or a point — without a fight.
Look no further than the first set. Ecton won the first three games before Singh took five of the next six. Ecton battled back and had set point up 6-5, but Singh forced a tiebreaker.
Singh fought off six set points in the tiebreaker, including four in a row after being down 6-2. But Ecton did the same on three occasions before finally closing it out at 13-11.
Singh won three of the first four games in the second set, and after a little back-and-forth was able to finally even things up with the 6-4 victory. That gave both players a little break from the heat, though Ecton wasn’t sure how she was going to power through the fatigue of playing a third three-set match in three days.
So where did she find that extra reserve to eventually take the third set?
“My mom, who is my coach, was like ‘Ky, you run cross country. You know you can do this. You know you have that in you,'” Ecton said. “Knowing that I had my mom know me as a person and a tennis player, being like, ‘You have more in you. This is what you’ve dreamed of – you have six more games to win, you can do it.'”
Ecton wasn’t the only first-time champion. Ponderosa senior Claire Cox — making her fourth state appearance — finally broke through with a 0-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory Mountain Vista sophomore Madi Allen.
“I knew it was my last chance to do it, so I fought for every point,” Cox said. “I really wanted to end my senior year with a state title, so it was really cool.”
Heritage junior Lauren Thomas won at No. 3 singles, 6-4, 7-6 over Cherry Creek’s Thanish Kemica Arul Kumar.
Mountain Vista’s Ashlen Grote and Amanda Pruitt captured the No. 1 doubles title 6-2, 6-3; Denver East’s Maddie Darre and Kelly Wulf rallied from a set down to win the No. 2 doubles crown; and Cherry Creek’s Wendy Yan and Rachel Schiff (No. 3 doubles), and Grace Shepard and Kaki Cantor (No. 4 doubles) won in straight sets.
The Bruins entered Saturday with only a six-point cushion over Mountain Vista, but had put themselves in good position to take care of business with some late playback points Friday.
“It’s a great feeling to win something this tight,” Jacob said. “The girls played so well. They had such a great warm-up and they were relaxed. We knew what we needed to do at the end of the day (Friday).”