COLUMBIA CITY — Columbia City’s No. 1 singles netters are no rookies of the sport.
Seniors Derek Hinen and Celine Rongos have both been playing tennis since they were young.
“When I was five years old, my dad started taking me out to the courts and hitting with me for fun,” Rongos said. “After that, I never stopped.”
Hinen said his family has played together since he was young.
Both Hinen and Rongos made Northeast Hoosier Conference All-Conference Teams last season.Rongos was also All-District, All-State Honorable Mention and named the Most Valuable Player.
Hinen finished his season in the last round of the regional, just one match away from the state finals.
Rongos has competed in a few tournaments this summer. In Huntington, she advanced to the finals. “I had to resign because I had to attend my cousin’s graduation ceremony,” Rongos said. She won the Columbia City tennis tournament in the high school girls division.
Though Hinen isn’t playing competitively this summer, he said he’s taking lessons to put more top spin on his shots and working on his serve. “I play a lot,” Hinen said.
Rongos said she’s working on improving her quickness, second serve and touching up the basic strokes.
Hinen said he’s looking forward to leading the team again this season.
Rongos said next spring she’s going to give it everything she’s got. “I have nothing to lose,” Rongos said. “This year I am going to stay relaxed and enjoy my last year on the team. This is my last chance.”
Both players said they were inspired to play tennis by their families.
Hinen said his dad, sisters, cousins and uncles all play. “All of my family members play tennis, either for fun or competitively,” Rongos said. “We usually go to the courts as a family when we practice.”
Rongos has a younger brother, Niko, who will be playing as a freshman this fall. Hinen has a younger sister, Macie, who played doubles last season for Columbia City, and an older sister, Maddie, a Lady Eagle Alumnus, who played.
While Rongos is fully invested in tennis, Hinen is also a leader on the basketball team. The boys’ season begins this month, while the Rongos will have the fall and winter to prepare for her senior year.
“I train with my dad as much as possible and during the winter I play twice a week at Wildwood Racket Club,” Rongos said.