Hickman boys tennis player Junyi Wu balances academics and tennis

Friday, May 10, 2013 | 9:30 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA—Hickman boys tennis player Junyi Wu didn't have time to enjoy victory. 

Wu, a sophomore, defeated Helias’ Kirk Twehous 6-0, 6-0 in 25 minutes in the first round of the Class 2, District 9 team tournament on Monday. But his evening of work was just beginning.

Instead of relaxing at home, Wu worked on homework the rest of the night. He is in difficult classes such as AP World History, pre-calculus, biology and chemistry.

He is also the sophomore class treasurer, competes with the Science Olympiad team and is part of the Future Problem Solving club and Red Cross Club. In his free time he plays piano competitively as well as the trombone for the Hickman wind ensemble.

“Tennis season is really hard to have a schedule, especially this year with all the weather cancellations,” Wu said. “You are never sure of anything.”

Before attending Hickman, Wu played tennis casually.

He was a newcomer to the sport and picked up a tennis racquet for the first time when he was 11 years old. He didn’t play competitively or have a private coach like the other top players in the area.

Instead he took lessons at Fairview Courts in Columbia, and would hit and serve against a wall on his own.

Hickman head coach Andy Materer was playing at Fairview Courts in summer 2010 when he noticed Wu serving and working hard. Materer and some of his friends began to play sets with Wu and showed him things to work on.

Materer also asked Wu, who was going into eighth grade at the time, if he was interested in playing for Hickman once Wu was in high school.

“I thought I was going to try out for the team, but it really gave me the encouragement when he came up to me,” Wu said.

In his freshman season, Wu won matches against his own teammates in practice and earned the No. 1 spot for the Kewpies.

“He went from hitting on his own against the backboard and serving to immediately becoming an effective player,” Materer said.

Wu didn’t expect to be the No. 1 player, and Materer was hesitant to play him at that position right away.

“I don’t think people understand that playing No. 1 as a freshman or sophomore is a tall order, especially when he’s always playing seniors with more experience," Materer said.

In two seasons Wu has enjoyed the opportunity to play the best players on each team.

“Even though Rock Bridge and other good teams have older players, I don’t see that as a problem, and I actually enjoy it,” Wu said.

Wu admits there are times in the season he gets frustrated when a bigger player overmatches him, but he always thinks positively.

“I play tennis because it is really fun, and do it for my teammates and my school,” Wu said. “So when I get frustrated, maybe I feel bad temporarily. But overall, the picture is mainly positive.”

Playing tennis, taking challenging classes and participating in clubs has helped Wu learn time management skills, says his mother, Yan Yang.

“Playing tennis can improve his mental judgment and physical endurance, which also benefits him in the long term,” she said.

Wu started the Red Cross Club at Hickman this school year. He wanted to establish an organization that would allow Hickman students to give back to the community. The club completed an April fundraiser in which they raised $1,043 for Red Cross comfort kits, according to club sponsor and Hickman teacher Ginny Lennon.

“Junyi seems soft-spoken but really is a powerhouse when he comes up with his own ideas, and he is a great leader,” Lennon said.

Wu and Hickman will take the court next in the district individual tournament at 9 a.m. Saturday at Cosmo-Bethel Park. Rock Bridge, Jefferson City, Camdenton, Smith-Cotton and Helias will also be participating. Each team will have two singles players and two doubles teams competing in a bracket style format.

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