‘Christmas in August’ for Aspen boys tennis
Aspen boys tennis coach Sherril Kerr knew a foreign exchange student from the Czech Republic was going to join her team this fall. She had no clue he would be her best player.”I’d heard that he was good, but you have to wait until they come in and play,” Kerr said of Jakub Gers, a 16-year-old junior from Jablonek. “Good is what? I’ve had German exchange students come, and they couldn’t make the JV team. Then, two years ago, we had a young man from Germany and he finished third at state. You have to wait and see what you’re getting.”What Kerr gets in Gers is a solid No. 1 singles player to fill the shoes of Sean Chatellard, one of four Skiers players to qualify for state last year.Gers showed up for his first workout with the team Wednesday and won the job in a playoff match against sophomore King Koehler, who will retain his No. 2 singles spot from last year.”It’s like Christmas in August,” Kerr said. “When he gets used to the altitude, watch out.” Gers laughed about joining a new high school team and instantly finding himself in the coveted No. 1 position. On his team back home, he said he was the worst player. “Really, I’m not kidding,” he said. “I knew there was a different altitude here. I didn’t know I’d be one of the best players on the team.”After the loss of four seniors – all four state tournament qualifiers – from last year’s team, the Skiers have a lot of question marks entering the season. Chatellard, who was a junior last year, isn’t on this year’s roster.Kerr said Gers and Koehler are the only two players who have locked up their spots heading into the opening dual match at Montrose today.Sophomores Tyler Roos and Ryan Dunn are vying for the No. 3 singles spot. The eight other varsity players – including seniors Andy MacCracken and Skyler Maclean – will play on one of the four doubles tandems.Despite its youth, this year’s team has more depth than last year’s, said Kerr. Gers’ arrival has created a trickle-down effect, she added.”We’re much stronger in the singles department with Jakub as our leader,” she said. “Because we have such strong singles this year, that pushes some of our stronger players down into the doubles. It makes our doubles stronger.”Because of the depth, Kerr believes her team has a legitimate shot at challenging Steamboat Springs for the regional championship this season. The Sailors have won eight straight, a streak that turns Kerr’s stomach.”I’m sick of it,” she said. “I’m ready for us to be regional champs.”Kerr will find out how good her team is today against Montrose, which also expects to be a contender after finishing second in the region last year.Really, Kerr said, there’s no reason not to be optimistic. At the start of a new season, it helps to set high goals and then get to work.”Three years ago, we had nine boys qualify for states,” she said. “I mean, what’s wrong with wanting 11? That’s gotta be the goal. I think we’re that strong, to qualify first or second at regionals. It’s Steamboat and Montrose and then us. There are really three of us vying for two places.”The optimism has started to rub off on Gers. He has already noticed the extra velocity on his serve from playing at a higher elevation, and said he feels confident about the upcoming season. As for his friends back home, he has yet to call to tell them about his rapid ascension on his new high school team. He might save the call until later in the season.”I want to win the championship,” he said. “That’s why I’m here. … When I’m champion of Colorado, I’ll call them.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
Let’s make some skiing predictions. I made my X Games snowboarding predictions a day earlier and remain only mildly lukewarm in terms of confidence, but maybe I’ll feel better about the skiers.