When recent Central Academy of Technology and Arts’ graduate Cameron Clemons qualified for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2A singles tennis tournament, he said it was like all the years of hard work and dedication finally paid off.
Clemons, who first picked up a racket at age 9 and has hardly let go of it since, decided to quit all his other sports to focus solely on his tennis career – a decision that spearheaded the Cougars most dominating tennis run in school history. Lining up at the No. 1 seed all season, Clemons was on a mission to qualify for the state tournament – something he’d fallen one round short of during his sophomore and junior campaigns.
But after winning the Rocky River conference tournament and finishing in a solid third place at the Class 2A Western Regional, Clemons earned a berth in the individuals state tournament.
“My goal this year was to make it to states,” he said. “It was an overwhelming journey to get there and I worked hard for it. Going to states was definitely the high point of my tennis career. It’s something I wanted and had my mind on from the beginning.”
Not only did Clemons qualify for the tournament, he advanced past the first round after a 6-1, 6-1 win over Carrboro’s Jason Wykoff before falling to state runner-up Joseph Schrader of Brevard, 6-3, 6-2.
It was a bittersweet ending to the most successful season ever for Clemons and the Cougars. The two-time Rocky River Conference Player of the Year didn’t lose a conference match all season and finished with a 24-3 singles’ record to earn his third all-conference status – all unprecedented accomplishments for someone on the CATA tennis team. Now, he’s the 2014 Union County Weekly’s Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
“It was an incredible year,” Clemons said. “We had a great group of guys on this year’s team and we won the conference, which is a huge accomplishment because our conference is really tough. We had several close matches with Mount Pleasant and the competition was great, so it says a lot about our program.”
Clemons said he couldn’t have asked for a better ending to his high school tennis career, and wouldn’t have had the year he did without the support of his father, Todd.
Todd Clemons recently assumed the girls head coaching position at Cuthbertson after several successful years at Sun Valley, where he was named the Southern Carolinas Conference Coach of the Year for three consecutive seasons. He introduced the sport to Cameron, as well as Cameron’s sisters Caytie and Carra, both of whom play on the Cavalier team.
“Everyone in my family plays because of him,” Clemons said. “He’s been such a role model for me. I’ve always looked up to him and he’s always been there for me at every single match and pushing me at practice. I remember hating him for it sometimes but he’s always had my best interest in mind and now that it’s all over, I’m so grateful for that.”
Clemons, who will head to the University of South Carolina in the fall after receiving in-state tuition due to his high GPA and SAT scores, said he’s already looking forward to coming back and visiting CATA and helping coach Ken Neese out at some practices – especially since the Cougar tennis program is on the rise.
Freshman Thomas McCorkle, who played at Line 2 and was an all-conference selection, also was undefeated in conference play and finished his freshman year with a 19-4 record. The Cougars also boast returning players Chris Garvin, Nicholas Olson, Will Hooper and Joe Hinkle – all of whom helped CATA clinch their undefeated record and will return next season.
“Honestly this season was awesome,” Clemons said. “We have a bunch of underclassmen that I know are going to work hard. Thomas is extremely dedicated from what I’ve seen and he’s going to go far in the future. Those guys keep coming to practice and working hard and they’re getting their friends interested in the program and in CATA. I feel like I got to be a mentor to them and help point them in the right direction, which was a huge honor.
“I’ll tell you one thing, the future is bright for CATA tennis. That’s for sure.”