By Max Goodwin
For the first time, the Barstow High School boys tennis team is state champions. And junior Richey King was crowned Class 1 singles champion.
The expectations were high coming into the season for Barstow, as it was also the first year there were enough Missouri high school tennis teams in the state to split the schools up evenly by size into three classes.
In past years, Barstow, a high school with an enrollment of just under 200 students, had to compete against some of the largest high schools in the state to win a championship. This year they were competing against schools of similar size in Class 1, defeating Bolivar 5-0 in the semifinals and Westminster Christian Academy (St. Louis) 5-2.
“I knew we had a good shot to get to the final four,” Barstow tennis coach Tom O’Brien said.
“We were finally swimming in a pond our own size. We were finally in Class 1.”
It was the week before Barstow won the team state championship that junior Richey King won the Class 1 individual state championship. He is the third member of his family to win a state title in tennis at Barstow, his older brother and sister each won doubles championships.
Now Richey King has bragging rights as the only King to win a singles state title. He says having siblings that have won at this level before has helped improve his game.
“For sure,” King said. “Because I’ve gotten to hit with them, and play with them all my life. And growing up, going down to watch them always made me want to do the same thing. To have both of them there when I won was a big deal.”
By the time they reached the state championships Barstow had been prepared by a grueling schedule against Kansas City’s best high school teams, much bigger schools than what they faced at state championships.
Barstow had the worst regular season record of any team at the Class 1 state championships, 7-4, “nothing you would write home to grandma about,” coach Tom O’Brien said. But it was because they had loaded their schedule with tough teams to strengthen them for the end of the season.
“We built our schedule purposefully to play all the best teams in town,” O’Brien said. “It’s like swinging two bats in the on-deck circle so when you step up to the plate, the load is a little lighter.”
Senior Sunil Reiland said expectations were high going into state knowing Barstow would be facing schools their own size, rather than larger schools with some of the best tennis teams in the state like Rockhurst, a team that finished runner-up at the largest Class 3.
With this state championship, Barstow will move up from Class 1 to Class 2 next year. The new system that has been implemented for splitting the schools into three classes involves a team that wins a championship at one level will move up to the next.
Coach Tom O’Brien thinks his team has the potential to compete at the next level as well. Just two seniors will leave, and singles champion Richey King has a younger brother that will be coming to the team next year as a freshman.
Suneil Reiland said it was a storybook ending to his high school tennis career, winning a state championship after a year without being able to play. If his schedule allows it, he plans to be back to watch his teammates compete at next year’s Class 2 state championships.
“I feel like a lot of those boys will make it to state next year,” Reiland said.