By Karl Jones and Rene Mauban
1984. That's the year the doors of The Meadows School opened. In the history of the school not once had the tennis team won the regional crown. In a school which is known for their high SAT scores rather than their set scores, competing in 4A high school tennis may have been a daunting task.
Fast forward 26 years to year 2010. The planets have aligned as the girl's tennis team has a stable of tennis thoroughbreds and a new coaching team led by former NCAA Champion and professional tennis player Tim Blenkiron, which also includes Hassan Humayun and Maggie Yahner.
Five members of the Meadows girls team have national rankings. They went through the school year undefeated and even more impressive is the margin of victory in the wins. The average score of each match was a whopping 17-1 going into the Sunset regional tournament.
The first obstacle was Bishop Gorman, the previous 6 time consecutive champion and defending champs. The Meadows School disposed of the highly regarded team by a score of 14-4. Austin McMillan, Taler Brazell and Amanda Brazell combined to sweep the singles matches on the way to victory.
Sunset Region finals pitted perennial powerhouse Palo Verde High School with a student population of 3372 vs. The Meadow's 240. Although student body being outnumbered by a 14-1 margin The Meadows Varsity came out firing on all cylinders. Taler Brazell went 3-0 in singles, doubles teams of Mckay Novak/Anjali Daulat and Erika Mauban/Shilpa Daulat also went 3-0. Singles players Amanda Brazell and Austin McMillan went 2-1 each for the Mustangs on the way to a 13-5 victory. The Meadows Girls Varsity team earned the right to travel to Reno, Nevada on October 21, 2010 to compete for the state title.
In Reno Meadows School faced even tougher odds, competing against perenial powerhouse Coronado for the title. But with some hard work, passion and great coaching the school was able to capture their first ever state championships.
"The whole school's behind us," Amanda Brazell said. "The teachers come out, the students come out, and it's just a great atmosphere out here."
Tennis coach Hassan Humayan feels this accomplishment is even more impressive considering the academic schedules these children keep.
"Given The Meadows School's focus on academics, athletics is always 'in addition to' and never 'instead of," explained Henry Chanin, who now serves as Head of School. "When these kids get back from the State Championship in Reno, they have to turn in their English papers and their math homework like everyone else first thing Monday morning."
The school's emphasis on academic excellence has helped them place countless children into some of the best colleges and universities in the country and has been a source of pride for our community. Their web site boasts of being "the only school in the state which places 100 percent of its graduates in four-year accredited colleges and universities. "
"Nowadays to get into the top schools you must be extraordinary in more then one area," said Rich Brazell, the father of Meadows'stars Taler and Amanda Brazell. "Meadows offers them the best education you can get and my daughters passion for tennis gives them that second area they will need to get into the best universities."
Also interesting is the Meadows school took home a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place trophy at the State Championships. 1st for the girls varsity team, 2nd for girls doubles with Amanda and Taler Brazell and Max Novak beat last years singles state champion on his way to 3rd. Austin McMillian also took 3rd place at the Regionals.
The development of this regional championship team was 3 years in the making. The School's founder Caroline Goodman and headmaster Henry Chanin made a call to Marty Hennessy and Tim Blenkiron to develop a top of the line program that fit the high performance academic needs of the Meadows School. The result was an in depth after school and summer program that started to develop the skills of their existing student body.
Blenkiron and Hennessy brought in Hassan Humayun and Maggie Yahner to implement their "No Quit" training program and to travel with the girls team. Yahner is a perfect example of what can happen to a student athlete that excels on the court and in the classroom. Yahner just graduated from the University of Virginia where she played tennis on scholarship.
"Winning state is amazing, but even more exciting is being able to work with a group of children that excel both academically and athletically," explained Blenkiron. "I am excited to see what great colleges they get into and what great things they eventually do with their lives."
Many of the parents credit the schools support and the coaches wisdom for their new found strength. "Anytime we needed anything Meadows was behind us," said Karey Novak, mother of team super stars Max and McKay. "They brought in the best coaches in the city which is rare for a high school team. We had great coaching and lots of it and that made all the difference."
Many of the Meadows players play tennis year round in hopes of one day playing at the best Universities on scholarship. Outside of high school tennis the Brazell sisters are coached by former pro Rita Agassi, a former top pro and sister to Andre Agassi. Max and McKay Novak, Anjali Daulat, Eika Mauban, Shilpa Daulat, Evan Roth and Austin McMillan all play at Tim Blenkiron and Marty Hennessy's NO QUIT Tennis Academy in the off season.
"It is amazing how these children manage such a challenging academic, athletic and leadership schedule, " say Blenkiron. "I am also grateful to the Meadows leadership for their support, including Henrry Chanin the headmaster and Frank DeSantis the athletic Director. Without them behind us none of this would have been possible."
Blenkiron also credited assistant coaches Maggie Yahner and Hassan Humayun for what he considered "a perfect season."