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Stewart wins second consecutive sectional championship
Federal Way pre-teen Mitch Stewart is the best the Northwest tennis scene has to offer.
Stewart recently won the 14-and-under singles title at the United States Tennis Association’s Pacific Northwest Junior Sectional Championships in Yakima. And Stewart did this despite playing against boys two years older.
“It’s a big deal,” said John Cassens, the head tennis coach at Decatur and Stewart’s personal coach. “He beat everybody. It was pretty cool.”
Stewart entered the tournament unseeded, due to the fact that he is classified as a 12-and-under player. But he proceeded to beat the 10th, fifth, fourth, first and second-seeded players on his way to the 14-under title.
Stewart downed Olympia’s John Stormans in the championship match, 6-2, 6-3, after beating No. 1-seeded Jordan Smith in the semifinals, 6-3, 6-4.
“He is really, really good,” Cassens said about Stewart. “He has the best God-given footwork for tennis. It’s kind of freaky.”
The sectional tournament included 300 boys and girls junior players from Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Northern Idaho and British Columbia competing in four age divisions.
Last week’s victory earned Stewart an all-expenses paid trip to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. next month for the Nike Junior Tennis National Masters. The weekend-long event will feature the best players from across the United States in the 14-and-under and 12-and-under boys and girls categories.
“Mitch got to go last year and it was amazing,” said Stewart’s mother, Lisa. “Nike pays for the whole thing. I went with him last year and it was just phenomenal.”
Stewart starting playing tennis as a 5-year-old. His parents live in the Marine Hills area of Federal Way, and took Mitch and his older brother, Jake, to the Marine Hills Swim and Tennis Club, where they took lessons and played plenty of tennis.
Jake Stewart has played on the Federal Way High School varsity tennis team for the past three years and was the Eagles’ No. 1 player last year as a junior.
This is the second year in a row that the younger Stewart has won the prestigious Pacific Northwest Junior Sectional title. Last year, he won both the singles and doubles competitions in the 12-and-under division in Beaverton, Ore.
Stewart was also part of the Pacific Northwest Beavers team that recently won the 2008 USTA 12s Pacific Zone team championship in Tucson, Ariz.
The win by Stewart’s 12-player team from Washington and Oregon was the first time a Pacific Northwest team has won the 12-and-under zone championship in more than a decade. The tournament included teams from Northern and Southern California, Hawaii and the rest of the Southwestern United States. Stewart finished 7-3 in his 10 matches in Arizona.
Current Decatur High School sophomore Meghan Cassens finished second in the girls 16-and-under category during the sectional tournament. Cassens, who was the Class 4A state singles runner up as a freshman at Decatur, lost to Oregon’s Audrionna Farr in the championship match, 6-3, 6-1.
But Cassens did win the doubles title with partner Brittney Reed, from Richland. Cassens and Reed beat Farr and Sophia Bott in the championship, 8-3.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org