You’d be wrong if you didn’t describe Gig Harbor’s Hunter Austin as a fighter.
Just one match into the West Central District 3A tournament, the senior co-captain began experiencing cramps in his calves and forearm, resulting in a lack of consistency and inability to drive through the ball.
With just 30 minutes to decide whether he’d continue on to a third and vital elimination match, he made the decision to play on.
And someway, somehow, Austin rallied to extend his stay at the tournament to Saturday, clinching his third match of the day in straight sets.
“I fought and I gave it my all,” Austin said. “My body was telling me no, but my mind was telling me yes. It’s still kind of a blur to me because I basically came into the match without being able to use my legs. I’m always the kid that I look at and say ‘one more ball, that’s it.’ … I just had to play smart out there and luckily got the win.”
Austin was one of several Tides tennis players representing Gig Harbor at the district tournament, after a league-high eight players qualified during the league tournament just a week prior.
“We’re a deep team,” said coach Lorrie Wood. “We started out with a lot of talent. Everyone’s improved a lot over the year, but we started out at a level that they could push each other. We’ve had a lot of players to push the teammates.”
The Tides utilized that depth to cruise to a second consecutive league and undefeated season. It seems, though, as if the team had no intention of stopping.
“We just (finished) our last practice, and [the team] didn’t want to quit,” Wood said. “They wanted to keep playing and I think that is a key to why they’re winning. They really want to be out there playing and competing.”
For one Tides tennis player, the season isn’t over.
Boone Jarvis, a Gig Harbor co-captain, battled his way through elimination matches over the weekend to lock up a fifth place finish and a spot at the state tournament in May.
“My goal was to play well and win at least one match,” Jarvis said. “The number one [goal] was to make it to state, and I was happy I could do that.”
Jarvis won more than one match. In fact, the entire district team won at least once throughout the tournament, including Kellan Curran and Mac Donohue qualifying as first alternates to state as a doubles squad.
At one point, every court at the Sprinker Recreation Center was occupied by a Gig Harbor team.
“It’s pretty high stakes,” Jarvis said. “There’s a lot of pressure going on and there’s a lot of people there with 15 teams in the tournament. The place is packed and there’s a lot of people cheering for their players. It’s pretty exciting.”
Exciting enough, according to Wood, that some Gig Harbor players attended the second day of the tournament after being eliminated, simply to cheer on their teammates.
And in some instances, believe it or not, to cheer on their bitter rivals from across town.
“Even though Peninsula and Gig Harbor are crosstown rivals, when it comes to going to districts, we’re all good friends off the court,” Austin said. “We were all cheering each other on.”
Though Austin’s high school season ended Saturday, he’s far from finished competing, with tournaments and college visits in the near future.
In the meantime, he’ll take a week to recover from multiple cramps, in addition to a blister on his left hand.
“I told my mom I really should be going to the Bahamas to take a break, but I’ll take [Washington].”