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Brighton High’s Hardy Owen wins second straight 5A singles title; Skyline takes team crown

Waterford’s Lalith Suresh captures second straight 3A championship

(AP Photo) A tennis player bounces a ball under his racquet as he prepares to serve.

For much of the Class 5A boys singles championship on Saturday, points that went the way of Brighton’s Hardy Owen were marked by silent fist pumps by the Bengals’ senior.

That might have been expected, given how many he won on this day at Liberty Park — to go along with the many more victories he’s earned in the last two years at the state tennis tournament.

But lest anyone think this was getting to be ho-hum, Owen barked out a short shout after the penultimate point of his 5A 1st Singles title match with Jack Hinkle of Woods Cross.

After winning that one, Owen seized the singles crown on the next point. This time, he dropped the racket, threw down his cap, turned toward the Brighton rooting section and bellowed out a long yell of victory.

“I kind of try to keep that gas on the pedal every single point, I give a hundred percent of focus,” Owen said. “Try to do that in practice, so it carries on to the match. I know every point matters.”

Owen started the day by beating Alta sophomore Griffin Schroeder 6-2, 6-0 in a semifinal match. Against Hinkle, it was a 6-1, 6-1 final as Owen wrapped up his second straight state championship — and two years of not giving up a set at the state tourney level.

“I kind of got into a rhythm this time. I knew how to prepare, playing lots in front of people. I kind of trained, practicing visualizing before a lot of people watching, so that helped a lot,” Owen added.

Owen’s two crowns follows in the wake of older brother Redd Owen’s three state titles while at Brighton. Like his sibling, Hardy plans on going on a church mission and then playing tennis at BYU.

“I expected him to come out on fire. I tried to disrupt him as much as I could,” said Hinkle, who had knocked out Jordan’s Charlie Buxton 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinal round. “He’s super consistent and has a super heavy ball. His baseline game and his serve is really good. I had to go to the net, which was what I thought would give me the best chance.”

In the team standings, Skyline edged out Brighton by a point to claim state and the Eagles were paced by the 1st Doubles championship earned by Michael Cherchio and Gunnar Wollar, who beat the Olympus duo of Spencer Linthorst and Jake Fankhauser 6-3, 6-1 in the final match.

The Class 3A boys state tournament also wrapped up on the same day in Salt Lake City.

Like Owen, Lalith Suresh of Waterford won his second straight singles championship. Suresh, though, didn’t actually have to go the full distance as his opponent in the 3A title match, Jaiden Handlon of Rowland Hall, pulled out of the finale after falling behind 3-0.

Handlon said he had strained his left ankle just prior to the state tournament and the stress of playing through a 6-4, 6-4 semifinal win over Grantsville’s Camdin Nelson was too much when it came to a second match.

“I took the week off, about four days ago, and it didn’t get much better. So I taped it up, played on it and put most of the weight on my right foot to avoid making it worse,” Handlon said. “I just started getting really tired on my right leg, so I really started having really bad body cramping.

“I kind of stopped moving. After three games, I thought, ‘What’s the point?’” he added.

For Suresh, a senior, his trail of victories had continued earlier in the day with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Juab’s Kyler Williams.

Along with winning for a second straight year, Suresh also took second at the 2019 state tournament as a freshman. His chance to win in 2020 went away with the COVID-caused cancellation of the event.

“I’ve never experienced that before, so it’s kind of new,” said Suresh of winning a truncated state championship match. “I don’t know how it feels. It feels the same, to be honest. I’m just glad that it’s over, this tournament was so long.”

The Waterford 1st Doubles team of Preston Jenkins and Dawson Jenkins also took state, beating Rowland Hall’s Luca Bressloff and Daniel McNally 6-7, 6-2, 6-3, as did Waterford as a whole in the team category, edging Rowland Hall by a point.

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