We regularly praise state champion high school athletes when they earn a title. It takes a combination of talent, coaching, parental and school support, and hours upon hours of practice to achieve a championship.
Last June, as a junior, Greenwood girls tennis player Jackie Kawamoto won the state singles championship at Park Tudor High School, capping a 28-0 season. But for the time being, she’s not going to defend her title.
No she hasn’t quit the sport. Far from it. She plans to play and compete just as fiercely as she did last year. Rather, before this season began, Kawamoto and her twin sister, Jade, decided the latter should be given the same opportunity to reach for glory. As a result, Jade is now playing No. 1 singles for the Woodmen with Jackie at No. 2 singles.
Only a team’s No. 1 singles player can compete for the individual state title. So there’s no room at the top for both.
“We kind of wanted to play doubles, actually, but both of us playing singles is what’s best for the team. I kind of feel bad because (Jackie) has to be playing No. 2 singles. But she’s OK with it,” Jade said. “It was pretty much Jackie’s and my decision.”
Jade is a left-hander with a big first serve and good offensive arsenal, while Jackie is right-handed and perhaps the better defensive player of the two. Overall, though, their respective tennis skill sets are almost as much a mirror image of each other as the girls themselves.
Jackie’s career record at the high school level is 48-1 compared to Jade’s 44-0 mark. The difference in matches played comes from Jackie’s postseason run of a year ago. It should also be noted that Jade missed part of the 2013 season after undergoing surgery on her left foot.
“I don’t think I was 100 percent last year, but this season I’m close to it,” Jade said.
Woodmen coach Steve Gantz sat down with the twins before this season in an effort to make certain no feelings could possibly be stepped on.
“I had a conference with them before we started our practices to see where our focus is. They’re both just excellent athletes, and it was a choice between them. They agreed Jade would play No. 1 and Jackie would play No. 2,” Gantz said.
“I’m sure Jackie is a little down, but having a twin sister you care so much about who is also so good ... they push each other, so I’m totally fine with it.”
This kind of unselfishness is indeed praiseworthy and speaks volumes about the girls’ upbringing, coaching and, most importantly, the players themselves.
We wish them great success, and whether they end the season with a title, they already are big winners.