Tennis champ eyes the US
Beth Williamson cruised to the Canterbury Secondary Schools' girls' tennis title recently and now has her sights set firmly on the United States.
In the middle of her school exams, the Lincoln High School year 13 will no sooner have finished those, but then has to sit her SATs - the standardised tests for college entry in the US.
Williamson, 17, is in her third year playing for Hagley Park in the Canterbury Tennis Christchurch club competition, her second year at No 1.
She has moved her way through Canterbury age group teams and is among the top players in the region.
Williamson waltzed to the schools' title recently, not dropping a set in her four matches.
She dropped just two games in her first two rounds, beat St Andrew's College's Michel Matson 6-3 6-1 in the semifinal then knocked over friend Rachel Swindell (STAC) 6-4 6-1 in the final.
"I was down 3-0 early in the first set against Rachel, but it all clicked from there," Williamson said.
She's hoping to head to a North Carolina school where there are plenty of Kiwis around, but the trip Stateside wouldn't solely be about the tennis. "I'm currently applying for colleges at the moment and I'm sitting my SATs soon," she said. "I'd love to get a tennis scholarship over there, play college tennis and get myself an education."
The education might trump any thoughts of making it to the big time, she said, with sports psychology and geography the favoured subject choices.
"You pretty much have to sacrifice everything and just play tennis if you want to make a decent run at it and I've probably left my run a little late," she said.
Not enough competition in the region also makes it hard for her.
Williamson said the club competition can be tough, but if there were more top juniors around, the competition would be beneficial to everyone.
There is also a lack of support once players leave the junior ranks.
Williamson works with dumped Canterbury Tennis coach Remi Feneon (and previously worked with Vaughan Kingi), but says with no team rep teams to compete for and a dearth of quality tournaments in Christchurch, it's a struggle.
"And that's why lots of players head to Auckland," she said.
Williamson understands funding is an issue, but agreed that little could be raised in the way of expectations on local players while the pathway stopped when they reached 17.
"And it's a shame Remi got let go, he's a great coach and has done a lot with so many players. He's really helped my game too."
Meanwhile, Christ's College's Connor Heap won the boys' open section with a 6-2 6-4 final scoreline over schoolmate Ben Johnston.
St Andrew's College's Lawrence Darling beat Christchurch Boys' High's Kai Lee 6-2 6-2 in the boys' intermediate while the girls' intermediate was taken out by Marian College's Jessica Shaw, who beat Rangiora High's Chelze Phillips 6-0 6-3.