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STATE TENNIS: Federal Way's Mitch Stewart looking toward state championship
Mitch Stewart doesn’t have to be out practicing every day for the Federal Way High School boys tennis team.
No one would blame the sophomore if he just skipped competing for the Eagles. Stewart is legitimately one of the best youth tennis players not only in the state of Washington, but in the nation. Currently, he is the 12th-ranked under-16 player in the United States and the No. 1 player in the Pacific Northwest. He is going to be able write his ticket to pretty much any college tennis program in the country.
But first, Stewart wants to become the first-ever state tennis champion from Federal Way High School and add the Class 4A title to his already-impressive tennis resumé.
“It’s been really cool representing Federal Way,” Stewart said. “That’s why I play. Winning would be pretty big for me and really good for my school. I’m taking it really seriously.”
The state championship is something that eluded Stewart last year during his freshman season for the Eagles.
Jackson’s Michael Chamerski held off Stewart, 6-4, 6-4, in the boys final last year at the Class 4A tournament in Vancouver. It's still the only loss of Stewart's prep career.
Chamerski, who is a senior this season, did not turn out for Jackson’s tennis team this year to concentrate more on playing national tournaments. Chamerski has already signed to play in the fall at the University of Washington.
“I guess he decided not to play,” Stewart said. “I wanted another chance at him. I think I could take him down. But that’s not going to happen.”
With Chamerski’s absence, Stewart enters the state tournament as the odds-on favorite to win the Class 4A title. Stewart sees Gonzaga Prep’s Alex Marcinkowski and Eastlake’s Vincente Veras as his stiffest competition. West Central/Southwest District runner-up Kent Andreasen, who Stewart beat in the final last week, 6-0, 6-3, should also make some noise.
The Class 4A State Tennis Tournament will kickoff today at the Columbia Basin Racquet Club and Richland High School in the Tri-Cities. Stewart opens against Patrick Chung from Cascade.
“I just can’t take anybody lightly,” Stewart said. “I am just going to go play one match at a time and not think ahead to the championship.
According to Stewart, he played some of the best tennis of his life during last weekend’s West Central/Southwest District Tournament and, obviously, that’s saying a lot with Stewart’s past success.
“I played phenomenal last weekend,” said the humble Stewart. “In the semifinal and final I played two reallly good players and took them down pretty good.”
Stewart beat Union’s Alex Wallace in the district semifinal, 6-1, 6-0, and dominated Andreasen in the championship, 6-0, 6-3.
“I think it all started last summer,” Stewart said. “I have been doing a lot of traveling and been doing real well lately. My ranking has went up and I’ve been doing real well.”
Stewart went to Palm Springs in April for a national-level tournament and finished in sixth place. He also attended a tournament in California in February and won the singles title. Stewart has also played in tournaments in Louisiana, Illinois and Michigan.
“I have got to go all over and play against a bunch of good players and really gained some confidence,” he said. “It has really gotten my game going pretty good. If you get to hit against better players all the time, you get better.”
Stewart has even bigger plans for this summer. Following the school year, he will travel to Delray Beach, Fla. to play in the Clay Court Nationals and then head straight to Kalamazoo, Mich. for the Boys Junior National Tennis Championships.
But Stewart hopes the highlight of his vacation will be playing at the US Open Junior Championships at the Flushing Meadows Tennis Center in New York City.
“It kind of depends on my ranking,” Stewart said. “I might be able to get a wildcard, but if I don’t get a wildcard, I will have to go into qualifying. It’s going to be awesome.”
Stewart will be joined in the Tri-Cities by Jefferson senior Kainoa Rosa, along with a pair of girls’ doubles teams.
Rosa finished in fourth place in the singles competition at the West Central/Southwest District Tournament after losing to Andreasen in the semifinals, 6-1, 6-3. Rosa then lost to Wallace in the third/fourth match, 6-3, 6-4.
Federal Way’s Lauren Lang and Mina Park ended up third at the district tournament after beating Beamer’s Jenny Hoefel and Kiele Bowman in the third/fourth match, 6-0, 6-3. Both teams advanced into the semifinals before losing.