COLUMBIA — Jimmy Hunter knew he would be part of the Rock Bridge boys tennis team long before he was in high school.
Hunter first met Rock Bridge coach Ben Loeb when he was 12 years old at Hunter’s first Rock Bridge tennis camp, but his interest in tennis began long before. When Hunter was 6, he began watching his mother play tennis at his neighborhood tennis court. It was then that Hunter decided to devote himself to tennis.
Hunter, now a senior who stands a little more than 6 feet, 2 inches, has the sort of silent intimidation that could scare the fuzz off of a tennis ball. Something his teammates know after Hunter beat all of them except junior Ford Zitsch, the Bruins' No. 1 singles player, in competition at the start of season.
Hunter brings an intense competitiveness to the court, something Loeb noticed when he first met Hunter.
“Sometimes, during practice, I will have a younger player watch him to learn the proper intensity required for this sport,” Loeb said. “Jimmy has that intensity all the time.”
Teammate Joe LaRose, another senior, has also had a part in Hunter’s development over the years. LaRose has practiced with Hunter since they were 12. They are now doubles partners, and though they aren’t quite sure what got them practicing together, Hunter and LaRose said they have always pushed each other to compete.
“Yeah it’s been a long time,” Hunter said. “We started hitting with each other, I don’t really know why.”
LaRose said, “Jimmy just called me up, and we started hitting, and we’ve just kept hitting.”
“But it’s always been competitive between us,” Hunter said. “Even though it's just practice, we push each other because we’re competitive people.”
Hunter said that in the winter he plays indoors whenever possible and participates in clinics during the summer. Hunter's relentless work ethic shouldn't come as a surprise given his favorite part of playing tennis.
“Every week you have to go out and fight for your school,” Hunter said. “I love the competitiveness of it. We get to play so many great teams.”
Since joining Rock Bridge’s tennis team his freshman year Hunter has helped lead the Bruins to two state championships and three district championships. When asked about what has meant the most to him about his time with the Bruins he focused on the team aspect.
“Being apart of the team when we won state my freshman and junior year has by far meant the most to me so far,” Hunter said.
Hunter will attend William Jewell College in Liberty next year to continue his tennis career, but before he leaves, Hunter hopes to help the Bruins to a 10th straight district championship.
The opportunity comes Tuesday with district competition set to begin at 4 p.m. at the tennis courts at Cosmo-Bethel Park.