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One of Lady Tigers’ stars missing out on postseason

DEVON O'NEIL
Devon O'Neil
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Jodi Houghtaling was 81 miles Thursday from where she wanted to be. She had earned her place at the regional tennis tournament, along with doubles partner Holly Westwood. The pair of Summit High School juniors went 10-2 this season, playing at the No. 4 position in the Tigers’ doubles lineup.The record was one of the best in their region, meaning they had a good chance of advancing to the state tournament if they played well at regionals.Only Julie Wallace, a surprise state qualifier at No. 2 singles two seasons ago, has made that cut during SHS coach Rae Anderson’s six-year tenure. Westwood and Houghtaling, along with No. 1 singles player Sutton Anderson (also 10-2 this season), figured a good bet to join Wallace in the Summit history books.But they won’t. Instead of taking the first step toward achieving that goal Thursday, Houghtaling spent her time in a Farmer’s Korner classroom while the rest of the team played in Denver.A few days prior she ceded her spot alongside Westwood to senior Cissy Daniels, a first-year tennis player who is filling in at the two-day regional tournament. Houghtaling could not play because she is taking the AP U.S. history exam today, and the SAT on Saturday.She called it “a huge bummer,” not being able to chase the proverbial high school sports carrot the kids call “state.”

The saddest part? Houghtaling could have played. She could have taken the AP test – which is not a requirement, but potentially can count toward college credits if a student does well enough – at a later date.But she won’t. And the reason is not exactly clear. When asked why she did not elect to take the test later, Houghtaling, 17, said, “Because my parents didn’t want me to. They thought that this was more important than tennis.””I guess,” she later added, somewhat reluctantly, “I would rather take it with my whole class and just get it over with.”I asked again whether she had a say in the decision, or if it was, as she’d already said, her parents’ call.”It was pretty much, ‘This is how it’s going to be,'” she said.Her father, Steven, painted a different picture when I spoke with him, after Jodi handed off the phone. “I didn’t make that decision as a parent,” he said, “Jodi made that decision as a student.”I told him what Jodi had said moments earlier.”Well, I think it was kind of a mutual decision,” he replied. “It was all of our decisions. It was a decision made by all of us. You can just correct what she told you and change it to that.”

Houghtaling and Westwood are not only doubles partners, but best friends too. They’ve been tight since around the fifth grade, when Westwood moved to Summit from the south coast of England. They joined the SHS tennis team together as freshmen, and have worked their way up to their current position via the JV team.They play together during the summer to improve their game. And they never miss a practice during the season. Last year, they were named co-MVPs of the JV squad.”They’re really the model high school athletes,” Anderson, their coach, said. “Not that they’re the best, but they did it the way it should be done.”And so you can imagine the anguish filling Houghtaling when, after a recent match, she broke the news to her best friend: They would not be continuing their sensational season at regionals. Their state dreams were over.”I was really worried that she was gonna be mad at me,” Houghtaling said. “But she was just like, ‘Oh, OK.’ I asked her, ‘Are you upset?’ And she said, ‘Well, I’m a little disappointed, but I understand.'”Sometimes you forget what friends are for – until they remind you.”I understood that there wasn’t really much she could do about it,” Westwood said. “It was more of her parents’ idea, it really was. That’s how she told me.

“We’ll get ’em next year,” Westwood said.When I think back to my own high school days, sometimes it seems like I only played sports and never went to class.All I recall are the winning joys and losing sorrows, the big games, the teammates I miss and the times we shared.I know I took two AP exams. But I don’t remember them.Thursday, while Houghtaling sat in class, Westwood and Daniels struggled against a pair from Golden before taking a 5-4 lead late in the first set. They were at deuce in that pivotal 10th game when the rains came and forced the match to be postponed until today.I asked Westwood what was different about Thursday’s match, considering she played with a new partner for the first time all season.”Well,” she said, “Jodi and I beat these girls pretty good when we played them earlier this season.”Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13630, or at doneil@summitdaily.com.


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