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Chatfield's Holmes repeats as 5A state boys tennis champion

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By Alissa Noe

DENVER — No injury was going to stop Chatfield’s Christian Holmes from making 5A state tennis history.

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On Saturday morning at the Gates Tennis Center, the defending state champion for No. 1 singles repeated the feat with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Regis Jesuit’s Morgan Schilling in the finals. That made him the first Jeffco player ever to win back-to-back crowns in the highest classification at his position in the Colorado state tournament’s 91-year existence.

The match — and Holmes’ season — was a true comeback story, since his doctor only cleared him to play just four days before the big match.

Before his senior season even started, Holmes tore his meniscus. When given the choice to fully, surgically repair the injury, Holmes instead opted to clean out the bad tissue to give him his best shot at playing again before state.

Three weeks earlier, that’s exactly what he did when he returned to the court at Fairview — against his doctor’s guidance. Since the onset of his injury seven weeks before state, he’s been working nonstop to make it back to the coveted tournament.

“He’s very driven,” his father Stephen said. “Fitness has always been a priority. He was reluctant to tell his physical therapist that he was out on the court. He really couldn’t do it too much, so he had to limit what he could do on the court and training. He was on the stationary bike but really no running or anything.”

Limited or not, his hard work paid off.

In the first set, Christian came out shaky and struggled to get much of any traction on Schilling, who went up 4-0 easily. But once he cleaned up his serve and shook off the nerves, Christian took over. He swept the next four games to tie everything up.

“I was just super tight,” he said. “I was super nervous; I honestly couldn’t sleep last night because I was so excited to play, but at the same time I was freaking nervous. He jumped out really fast, and I just kind of had to scrap back and grind back.”

Schilling took the next game, placing the pressure on Christian. But he wasn’t ready to let that end his run.

In taking the next three games, he put away the first set and flipped the pressure back onto Schilling. Throughout a thrilling second set, neither player gave in nor let his opponent gain much of an edge.

That is, until Schilling took another 5-4 lead.

Once again, Christian capitalized on his court swagger and won the final three games to put away Schilling once and for all, which he sealed with a racquet flip. Christian attributed much of his success to his family, coach Devin Van Treeck and the crowd that pumped him up when he was down.

“I was just missing way too much in the beginning,” Christian said. “He was just dictating everything, so I just had to kind of calm my nerves down and just really hit a good ball and say to myself, ‘I’m going to hit that ball 100 times.’ … In the second set, I got a little confidence back and was able to dictate a little more and kind of move him instead of him moving me.”

With the championship, Christian finished off his high school career in the most perfect way. Now, he wants to take that momentum into college, where he hopes to play for a program like Brigham Young University.