Pelham teams hit national milestone

The Pelham Racquet Club 4.0 women's tennis team will compete in the national tournament in Tucson, Ariz. from Sept. 23-25. The Pelham men's 2.5 and 3.0 teams are also competing in their national championship tournaments. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

On Sept. 23, three groups of athletes from the Pelham Racquet Club and Tennis Center will mark a milestone no other facility in the country has matched.

“This is a first. It’s history in the making,” said Pelham Parks and Recreation Director Billy Crandall. “Our facility is sending three teams to the national championships. That has never happened before in the U.S. Tennis Association.”

Members of the Pelham men’s 2.5-level team departed for their national championship tournament in Palm Springs, Calif., on Sept. 20, and will compete in the tournament from Sept. 23-25.

The Pelham women’s 4.0-level team will also compete in its national championship tournament in Tucson, Ariz., from Sept. 23-25. The Pelham Men’s 3.0 team will compete in its national championship tournament in Tucson, Ariz., from Oct. 21-23.

Crandall, who is a member of the 2.5 team, was preparing to board a plane with the other members of his team on the afternoon of Sept. 20, and said he was surprised at how quickly the team has progressed in competitions over the past year.

“We just started playing together last August, so it’s been a little over a year now,” Crandall said, noting the team would have “gotten nowhere without (team) coach Omar (Alcaino).”

“I think that says a lot about the strength of tennis in Pelham,” Crandall added.

Crandall said it is customary at the national championship tournament for teams to present their competition with gifts before the matches. On Sept. 20, Crandall said he had a “suitcase full of Rick and Bubba beef jerky and Alabama state pins” to gift to opposing teams.

Before making it to the national championships, the three teams had strong showings in the state and sectional tournaments. The women’s 4.0 team, the men’s 3.0 team and the men’s 2.5 team won their sectional divisions, defeating teams from Covington, La., Lake Charles, La., and Lawrenceville, Ga., respectively.

Women’s 4.0 team members are Karen Amidon, Susie Barnes, Luann Causey, Dianna Clifton, Ramona Cunningham, Jean Deal, Liz Dove, Debbie Drake, Colleen Ellis, Kathy McLeod, Linda Sink, Robin Sparks, Wendi Stanley, Lisa Steed and Teresa Turner.

Men’s 3.0 team members are Darryl Collins, Heith Comer, Paul Comer, Patrick Dorough, Jason Hoffman, Rob Ingram, Lynn Lovelady, Patrick Mills, Andy Walsh, Darrell Warren and Ming Xia.

Men’s 2.5 team members are Crandall, Tim Durrett, Matthew Litz, Chad Miller, James Mizell and Steve Myrick. Alcaino is the team’s coach.

The Pelham Racquet Club and Tennis Center teams’ success in area and regional tournaments has made Pelham a well-known city in tennis circles, said Racquet Club employee Chaney Mills.

“Pelham is definitely a name that is well known,” Mills said. “Our facility is really getting out there.”

“Everybody else hates us because we always do so well,” Crandall said with a laugh.

Crandall said the teams’ trips to the national championships could help draw more people to the Pelham facilities.

“I don’t think people realize the impact this will have in Pelham,” he said. “I think a lot more people will start coming up there because of this.”