HESSTON — When Mark Dahlsten was a high school tennis player back in the early 1980s at then-Lindsborg High School — and playing for his legendary father and coach Ron — he thought winning state championships was what you’re supposed to do.
After all in his final three years as a Viking, he won the state doubles title in 1981 and 1982 with John Bellah (now the Vikings’ head coach) and capped his career in 1983 with the hat trick with Jay Tolle.
The year before the Bethany College graduate arrived at Hesston to begin his teaching career, the Swathers were the state champions. So he figured it would be more of the same.
But in his 28th year as Swather coach — and after some narrow misses — Dahlsten finally experienced that state championship feeling again as Hesston won the Class 3-2-1A title in what turned into a three-team shootout Saturday at Emporia.
The Swathers, ranked No. 3 all year to No. 1 Kansas City Christian and No. 2 Wichita Collegiate, scored 41 points — one more than Collegiate and two more than Kansas City Christian, which actually had both the singles champion and championship doubles team.
However, it was the Swathers’ contributions from all six players that won them the title. Isaac Penner was fourth in singles, the same place as the doubles team of Grant Dahlsten and Garrett Roth. Collin Martin was fifth in singles, and the doubles team of Daniel Holthus and Gus Williams was 10th.
It was a prideful day for Dahlsten as like his school days when he won state titles playing for his father, he watched his son win one as well. But he was just as happy for the other players.
“Wow, state champions. I’m so happy for this group,” he said. “They are obviously good tennis players, but they are also great kids. They are fun to be around and they support one another. The championship embodies what this team is all about. Each member made individual contributions to the championship. We would not have won without each one of those.”
Dahlsten said the way the tournament played out, everything that had to happen for the Swathers did.
“We had so many things fall just the way we needed them to this weekend,” he said. “But then we were able to take advantage of those. It was an honor and privilege to coach those kids. This is Hesston’s first state championship since 1987 and we are certainly going to enjoy it.”
Martin and Penner are both seniors. For Martin, it was his fourth straight trip to state as he’ll go down as one of the best to ever play at the school as he’s the only Swather in history to medal four years in a row.
Juniors Roth and Grant Dahlsten will both be back next year knowing they could very well be one of the teams to beat. They won their regional and did what they needed to do at state and that was to make the Final Four.
Williams was the third Hesston senior, but Holthus is a just a junior and will be back. Dahlsten had a deep team as he left home some good players who would have been in the Top 6 for most teams.
Collegiate figures to be the team to beat as it returns five of its top six and always reloads. since it’s a tennis factory. There’s always a question from year to year, however, whether it will be 4A or 3A, which is determined in September.
Kansas City Christian loses singles champion Johnny Goodwin (who will play at the University of Texas next year) and had four seniors overall. But like Collegiate, it’s a private school that will always be loaded.
Yet, don’t be surprised next year if the same three teams are carting home the allotted number of plaques.