FARMINGTON— Close to 60 Farmington youth hit the courts this weekend for the 18th annual Citizens Bank Junior Tennis Tournament at the Farmington Sports Complex.
Kim Lien, who has organized each of the adult and junior tennis tournaments for Citizens Bank, said there was a need for a youth tournament.
"We just know that there is a need for it since there aren't any events that go on for tennis," Lien said. "The feedback we get from the parents and the kids makes you want to continue, and watching it grow you can tell it's successful. It's really been a great thing for Farmington and the Four Corners."
The number of competitors has climbed since the first tournament in part to the need for an area tournament and the non-traditional format the tournament offers.
In a standard tennis tournament operating under United States Tennis Association guidelines, players are placed in divisions based strictly on age. In doing so, players get the experience of playing against their peers, but are often subject to dramatic differences in skill level within their division.
Unlike traditional USTA tournaments, the Citizens Bank takes players and places them in divisions based on ability.
"You go USTA and you have to go 12-and-under, 14-and-under, 16-and-under, 18-and-under and there's no leeway anywhere," said Pat McGrath, who helps organize the event. "We can look and see where it's going to be competitive and move some people up and some people down to have a more competitive draw. You get in a USTA match and odds are there are going to be five or six kids who are just going to clean your clock and then you're done."
At times during the tournament girls who would normally play in the 12-and-under division were competing against girls two and three years their senior.
And in the case of 14-year-old Arin Coleman, an incoming freshman at Farmington High, McGrath placed her in the boys 18-and-under division.
"It's definitely a really good experience," said Coleman, who as an eighth-grader last season was the number seven girl for the Lady Scorpions. "Especially after last year. I was a little bit nervous playing a bunch of older girls, and I was a little nervous to be playing with the boys, but it's a good experience."
After her 6-3, 6-4 win in the quarterfinals Saturday morning, Coleman advanced to play Will Hall, the Scorps No. 3 boy last season, in the semis Saturday night. Coleman said being a 14-year-old girl playing in the 18-and-under boys division is a bit intimidating, but that she is trying to focus more on the experience she'll gain by playing at a higher level of competition.
"I'm just going to take it as an experience and not be so intimidated by him," Coleman said of her match with Hall. "I think that if I don't worry about winning so much against the boys I can just focus on my strokes and serves."
The match against one of the top boys proved too much for Coleman, who fell in the semis to Hall.
Hall, who will be a senior at Farmington High, went on to claim the boys title, defeating Ned Merrion in the finals 6-2, 6-2.
In the girls 18-and-under division Eliza Merrion bested Elise Ballard 6-2, 6-1 to claim the singles title.
Bella Rasion won the 10-and-under girls singles while Andrew Nygren and Hunter Perez tied for the 12-and-under boys singles title. Meg Mullins won the 14-and-under girls singles crown.
In doubles action Payton Sandoval and Riley Coleman won the girls 18-and-under division while Zander Halgryn and Ned Merrion took the 18-and-under boys title.
Each player gets at least three matches during the weekend, which provides them with valuable playing experience, and for Michelle McGrath, Pat's daughter, who will be a freshman at FHS, the tournament serves as an educational and motivating experience.
"I've been here ever since I was a little kid and I grew up watching everyone else play," said the 14-year-old Michelle. "Seeing a lot of the older people play, and me being able to play them, it's hard, but it's a really good challenge. A lot of these players are varsity and I'm starting off on JV, but just watching them and them teaching me different strokes, how to move the ball different ways, is really good."