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Schoolwork no problem for Hickman boys' tennis team

Monday, April 23, 2012 | 9:30 p.m. CDT; updated 10:00 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Ashwath Kumar returns a serve Monday during the Hickman High School boys tennis team's practice. The team has the highest average GPA in Hickman athletics. Kumar is one of the top students and also debates competitively.

COLUMBIA — With a 5-8 record, the Hickman High School boys tennis team is not the best. But they might be the smartest.

Kewpies coach Andrew Materer calls them "the All-Brainiac team" or "Team Brainiac," and for good reason. The tennis team has the highest cumulative grade point average of any Hickman sports team, Materer said.

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"There's a four-oh, there's a four-oh, there's a four-oh," Materer said, pointing out all the players with a 4.0 grade point average at practice Monday.

The Kewpies could also make an argument for being the hardest working. The boys have tennis practice five days every week in addition to long lists of other extracurricular activities.

"I have so many that I forget," senior Daniel Hwang said with a laugh as he counted off all his activities.

Hwang, the No. 2 singles player, is unsure where he wants to go to school next year. He's still deciding. But with his list of activities — including the marching band and the National Honor Society — and his 4.0 grade-point average, it's not surprising that he was recently accepted by Yale University.

The other players' activity lists are similar in size, and they show that a lot of the players are teammates in more than tennis.

Hwang is the president of the math honor society this year, a position that junior Daniel Shyu, the No. 3 singles player, is seeking for next year. As the student body treasurer, Shyu also is a part of the Science Olympiads and the science honor society.

"I haven't been doing much this year," Shyu said seriously. "Because of class load and tennis."

Hwang and Shyu are also on the math team, which just placed second among 15 teams in the Great Plains Math League.

But the most impressive link between the teammates is that they potentially could become back-to-back Presidential Scholars. Each year two students from each state, a male and a female, are recognized by this program as the "nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors."

"There's this year's," Materer said, pointing at Hwang, "And there's next year's," he said, pointing at Shyu.

Hwang is a semifinalist among Missouri males. Shyu is hoping he'll be at least a semifinalist next year.

"I'm really proud of how I did," Hwang said. "No matter whether I get it or not."

But the streak might not stop there. The Hickman boys tennis team has two other serious prospects to continue the Kewpies' trend after Eric Young from Hickman won last year.

Sophomore Ashwath Kumar and freshman Junyi Wu, who both have resumes that look like Hwang's and Shyu's, also hope to one day make it as far as Hwang has.

"That's like everybody's team," said No. 1 singles player Wu, who is president of the National Junior Honor Society and won the state Science Olympiads this year.

It's surprising the boys have time for tennis, but they know it will help them in the future.

"Yeah, definitely," Wu said about tennis helping with the college application process. "I think it definitely shows a unique side of you, like what makes you different."

The "All-Brainiac Team" will play tennis next at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Jefferson City.  The winner gets home court advantage at the Class 2, District 9 Tournament. 


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