GREAT FALLS — The rain almost held off long enough for the State B-C Tennis Tournament in Great Falls, but not quite.
As Choteau’s Christina Funk and Fairfield’s Emily Clotfelter were partway through their third set to determine who would win third place, the skies began to rain down until they had to pause play, drive across town and resume at the indoor courts at the Meadow Lark Country Club, a fitting end to an already unusually weather-challenged season.
But it wasn’t until they finally concluded after Clotfelter won 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2), that Choteau learned it had earned the school's first State B-C tennis championship. Fairfield and Missoula Loyola tied for second.
First-year tennis coach Carla May had seven players on the team this season and had three make the state tournament. The girls, Funk and Michaela Gunderson, made historic Bulldog runs to fourth and second-place finishes, respectively, to take the trophy.
“We don’t have a state champion on our team, but this by far, beats everything,” said May. “Watching their faces was the highlight of my day.”
On the boys side, the team trophy was much less in question. Great Falls Central also earned its first team title in its third year as a program, due in large part to the efforts of first- and second-place singles finishers Nick Scott and Roger Mai. Missoula Loyola took second and Bigfork rounded out the podium.
Few have ever had a week to rival that of Nick Scott.
“It’s been a busy week,” said Scott. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
After finishing seventh at the Class C golf tournament on Wednesday, he played the Class B-C State Tennis tournament where he found himself facing his teammate, and the defending state champion, Roger Mai for first place.
“It does feel good to do that, but for my whole mentality like what I said was, ‘I don’t care if I take first or second, I’m just here to have fun because this is my first state and I’m just going to play it like it is,” Scott said.
Scott, who transferred from Fort Benton last year, ultimately won 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
“I have a lot of respect for Roger. He’s just so fun to play,” Scott said.
“I’m going to enjoy this until school ends and then summer. Then when football comes around, I’m going to be focused on football.”
Even though winning a state championship has been a goal for Bigfork senior Ellie Berreth, when the day finally came, it didn’t surprise her.
“I felt good about it. I don’t know, I work up this morning and I wasn’t nervous and I just wanted to get out there and play. I was anxious to play, but not really nervous,” said Berreth after.
Berreth won the first championship of the day by defeating Choteau’s Gunderson 6-2, 6-1.
“It feels amazing. It’s so surreal. It’s been my goal all of high school so for it to actually happen, it’s crazy! It’s just unreal.”
Like all the girls players, Berreth had a short turnaround between matches after her semifinal against Choteau’s Funk ended late Friday night.
“I was a little more conservative today than I was last night, but I thought that was needed because she was a good player and she was good at the net,” Berreth said. “I had to keep her away from the net; Choteau’s just good at the net.”
Berreth’s previous best finish was fifth place last season, but she has played tennis since she could walk and knows her achievement came because of the assistance and dedication of her family and coaches.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere near any of this today without any of their support.”
Two courts over, Bigfork’s Colton Reichenbach saw.
“I noticed (Berreth) and I was like, “Well, she won. I guess it’s our turn.”
Reichenbach and his twin brother Clayton were in the middle of their own match vying for a state championship up against Missoula Loyola’s David Ramsey and Dan Kaleva.
The pairs had already met three times this season. The Vikings won the first one, but the Rams had taken the next two, so when they met for the state championship, they were familiar with what they were up against.
Bigfork won 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.
“Feels good,” Clayton said.
“A lot better,” Colton echoed.
The juniors, who have played together for three years now, knew that they had to remain calm and not start bickering when the Rams started making shots and took the second set.
And when they scored the game winner, Clayton finally let out some emotion with a “Let’s go!” with a fist pump as he grinned at his brother.
It’s been a good couple months for Colton and Clayton, who also earned a state championship with the Vikings basketball team this past spring. The brothers also play football.
Friday night Katie Giles’ dad was joking about having a heart attack as Giles and her partner Megan Clark dueled late into the night through multiple tiebreakers before finally advancing to the championship. Saturday, they made it a little easier on him by defeating Chinook’s Sierra Swank and Megan Pruttis 7-5, 6-1.
“It feels really good,” said Giles. “Really nervous, didn’t get much sleep last night.”
The Longhorns and Sugarbeeters had faced each other before this season, but Chinook had gotten the upper-hand.
“There was really no doubt in our mind that we could pull it out,” Clark said.
“We played a lot more aggressive (this tournament) than we did all throughout the season,” Giles said.
First-year coach Suzie Wadsworth said playing aggressive was their theme throughout the season and she was proud to see her players buy in and get a state championship as a result.
True to form, the first-year partnership of the junior Giles and sophomore Clark showed up wearing their third pair of “ugly socks” of the tournament. Their championship choice featured Captain America.
“We knew they were a really tough team, but considering how well we did against Conrad, we knew we could come through,” Giles said.