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Kernels take 2nd at state tennis tourney

Mitchell’s Kanin Nelson lunges for a volley during the state boys tennis tournament on Saturday at Sioux Park in Rapid City. (Eric Ginnard/Rapid City Journal)

RAPID CITY -- The Kernels made school history Saturday at the state boys tennis tournament.

Mitchell finished second behind Lincoln, tying the school’s best finish in the sport in 1995.

“These kids just really played well all year long and set higher expectations for themselves as the year went along,” said Mitchell coach Pat Moller, who returns his entire varsity lineup next season. “I couldn’t be prouder of them for the way they performed, acted and handled themselves all weekend.

“I feel fortunate to be a part of this and I can’t wait to get started next year.”

The Kernels’ spot in the team standings was secured when Sioux Falls Lincoln knocked off Sioux Falls O’Gorman in the No. 1 doubles final. Mitchell totaled 577 points, finishing six points ahead of the Knights with 571.

Sioux Falls Lincoln ran away with the tournament with 696 points, winning seven of nine flights.

The Kernels earned spots in the championship in four singles and two doubles matches.

Mitchell had six second-place finishes, including No. 2 Beau Brown, No. 3 Alex Hegg, No. 4 Kanin Nelson and No. 5 Brenden Lehr in singles. Brown was the only Kernel to fall to a non-Sioux Falls Lincoln player in a title match.

Mitchell's No. 2 and 3 doubles teams also finished second, each falling to Sioux Falls Lincoln.

“We ran into the buzzsaw of Sioux Falls Lincoln,” Moller said. “They played incredibly well and really earned that state championship.”

Mitchell’s No. 1 doubles team was third, while No. 1 singles player Jacob Cersosimo took fifth and No. 6 Gray Determan finished third.

There is a welcome home at 7 p.m. today at the Mitchell High School auditorium to recognize the second-place Kernels. The tennis team had the best team finish for any Kernel boys athletic team this season.

“It’s amazing,” Mitchell sophomore Alex Hegg said. “Obviously, we had to go up against tough opponents, and next year we’re hoping for a bigger goal.

“We did very well this year and I’m happy. I think we’re all happy about the season.”

NOTES: Madison took home two awards at the state tournament Saturday. Senior Jacob Leighton was given the Spirit of Max award, while the Bulldogs were also given the Sportsmanship Award, which is voted on by coaches and tournament officials.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.