Champ's path taking a new turn - Tucson Local Media: Sports

Champ's path taking a new turn

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Posted: Monday, May 31, 2010 11:00 pm

Senior Tanya Hetlinger of Pusch Ridge Christian Academy defeated Stepheny Vos of Tombstone to capture the 2A/3A state singles title, 6-4, 6-0, last month in Phoenix.

"I had bronchitis, so I was a little worried," Hetlinger said. "I was nervous because we didn't know the other players."

Hetlinger plays USTA tennis, and knows many top-ranked area players.

"It's really competitive. You play all year around. You're playing versus people who play every day. I've been going to Ron Smith Tennis Academy since I was 10."

There was no familiarity problem for Hetlinger in her semi-final win. She defeated freshman teammate Allie Scott, 6-4, 6-3. Scott went on to finish third overall. The Pusch Ridge girls team also won the team title for the third time in four years, according to Hetlinger.

Hetlinger's path has not been easy, but she has found success on the court and in the classroom.

Tanya's mother is from Taiwan, where Tanya was born, while her father is American. He owns a business in China.

"He's made a lot of sacrifices for me and my sister," she said. "He's paid for my tennis and my schooling."

Hetlinger hasn't seen her father since her freshman year, and hasn't talked to her mother since 2000.

There have been three constants in Tanya's life: the presence of her grandmother, Marcia Hetlinger; tennis, and four high-achieving rival students she's taken classes with since the sixth grade.

"I've lived with my grandmother since I was five," Hetlinger said. "She broke her back in 2006, and she's been in a lot of pain since then."

Hetlinger "can't remember not playing tennis. I really like the individual aspect. You get to meet friends."

Erin Bleyl, Ryan Polston, Kelsey Andres and Erica Andres have been in many of the same advanced classes as Tanya since the sixth grade.

Polston, also on the Lions tennis team, is going to West Point. He was the Pusch Ridge senior class president. Kelsey Andres was the valedictorian, and was a tennis teammate.

"I was number five (out of the five) in grades," Hetlinger joked. That said, she graduated from Pusch Ridge with a 4.38 grade point average.

Hetlinger "won't get much of a summer," continuing her frantic pace toward attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. "The academy expects everyone to be at the top academically," Hetlinger said.

"Her grades help the whole package," said Lonnie Tvrdy, assistant principal and athletic director at Pusch Ridge.

She certainly has the family background for her induction into the Academy.

"Most of my family has served in the Navy or the Marines. I grew up with a strong respect for the military," she said.

"My grandmother was an English teacher. The discipline part of my family has come through."

Tanya's four years at Pusch Ridge have served her well too, especially considering she almost left to transfer to Catalina Foothills, which is closer to home.

"All the teachers are really caring (at Pusch Ridge). All of them are willing to help."

"Mrs. Abrams has helped me a lot, and to help me to get into the Academy. Mrs. Bleyl (also swim coach), too. I'm really glad I stuck it out with this school."

Going from the West Coast to the East Coast will be quite a change for Hetlinger. "I'll miss Tucson and the weather. It was really humid in Taiwan. I like the heat."

She'll enjoy the heat for another month.

"I leave for the Academy on June 29th," she said. "The induction time is July 1st."

Even as the school year was drawing to a close, and state finals were over, Hetlinger was still playing tennis in the afternoons. She'll continue playing tennis on the Academy team.

What's she doing over the next few weeks?

"I'll try to play on afternoons. Coach on weekends.

"I'll try to spend as much time as I have left with my grandmother."

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