Frankie Crawford waited more than 30 years for a state high school tennis championship.
Playing for Henryetta from 1978-81, Crawford finished as state runner-up in tennis three times. But on Saturday at the Oklahoma City Tennis Center, he finally got to celebrate after a state championship match.
Crawford watched as his son, Blake, defeated Lucas Meacham of Crossings Christian, 6-1, 6-1, in the Class 4A state championship match. Blake, a junior at Mount St. Mary, completed an unbeaten season and became the first tennis state champion in the school’s history.
Blake Crawford said he wanted the championship as much for his father and longtime Mount St. Mary tennis coach Leroy Cantrell as he did for himself.
“It’s great to do this for him,” Blake said. “I think he is happy. Winning for him, that’s why I am out here. He is the reason I am out here. It’s great to win for my family and my friends, but also to feel a little bit of an accomplishment for myself.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to win it for another coach. He is a great guy. Mount has been around for a while and has never really been known for its tennis. It feels really good to be the first to win it in its long history.”
Cantrell, who has been the tennis coach at Mount St. Mary since 1995, said Crawford’s title is a big boost for the program.
“It’s huge. It means a lot to our program, the school,” he said. “I have a lot of kids watching (Saturday) that don’t normally come out and watch our matches. But Blake is a junior. He’s got a lot of friends here. Maybe I will pick up some players.”
Crawford cruised through the state tournament, not losing more than two games in a set. He finished fourth as a sophomore in the state tennis tournament, having to forfeit the third place match after pulling a hamstring.
“He works really, really hard at his game,” Cantrell said. “He has been playing since a very young age. He likes the game. He doesn’t play any other sport. He is a real competitor.”
Crawford said he didn’t play his best in Friday’s first round and quarterfinal match but felt like he was on his game Saturday for the semifinals and finals. Crawford downed Caleb Shaw of Byng in the semifinal, 6-0, 6-1.
“I played really well at times (Saturday), especially in my semifinal ,” he said. “I was really feeling it then. In this last match I was a little tight sometimes but mostly I played pretty well.”
The 4A field opened up when defending state champion Zeke Clark of Riverfield Country Day in Tulsa chose not to compete in the playoffs. Clark is one of the top players in the country and has been competing in national tournaments this season.
Crawford was both elated and disappointed when he learned the news that Clark was skipping the high school playoffs.
“I felt my chances (of winning) went a lot higher after that because obviously Zeke’s on another world, but I wanted to play him too,” he said. “I just wanted to see how I could fare up against him, honestly. Maybe next year if he’s playing.”
Frankie Crawford said his son now has the tennis bragging rights in the family with his state championship .
“I am so happy for him,” Frankie Crawford said. “He’s put in a lot of work and a lot of time. I think he deserves it. I will celebrate it.