Best of a bad situation
Plainfield tennis player hoping she and her classmates get their senior season
By Mike Beas
As a senior, Plainfield tennis player Claire Harper knows her leadership qualities are valued now more than ever in these uncertain times.
Plainfield senior tennis player Claire Harper might not get to hit one ball in a match this year, but she’s still leading her team. (Photo by Eric Pritchett)
The ongoing threat of the coronavirus has drastically altered the sports landscape with delays, cancellations and an unprecedented level of simply not knowing when, or if, a spring athletic season will actually unfold.
“It’s pretty scary,” said Harper, who teamed with since-graduated Kiersten Martin to win the No. 1 doubles titles at the Mid-State Conference meet the past two seasons. “It makes me sad that we may not have a tennis season, but hopefully we’ll get to play in the conference tournament and in the sectional. We’re all hoping for the best and that we have a season.”
Should there be one, Harper and her sister, Audrey, a sophomore, are projected to be the Quakers’ top doubles tandem. They attempt to stay in tennis shape either by practicing together or playing against Plainfield boys players Cade East and Cameron Chafin several times weekly at the middle school courts or Swinford Park.
Away from tennis, the elder Harper maintains a 4.1 grade-point average. She plans to major in secondary education at either Ball State University or Marian University.
Harper began her varsity tennis career as a sophomore by comprising half of Plainfield’s No. 2 doubles team. Harper and Martin posted an 18-2 record during the 2018 season and finished 14-3 last spring.
Quakers coach Keith Bradley, now in his 10th season, said Harper didn’t wait until her final year of high school to emerge as one of his program’s leaders. The qualities that define her now have been evident since her freshman season.
“For our program, Claire is just a constant. She has always been comfortable playing doubles and has always been a leader among those players and kept the competition very high,” said Bradley. “Claire has always stayed very positive, even if we’re doing the most boring drill in the world. The other kids see her work ethic.”
Harper embraces the role. “I feel like I do consider myself one of the leaders on the team,” she said. “We all get along very well, and as a senior I feel that I’ve earned that role.”
At this juncture, the only certainty regarding the multitude of precautions being taken because of the coronavirus is that nothing is certain. Maybe the clouds eventually part and the rays of normalcy allow spring sports teams to play, albeit with shortened seasons.
“These seniors have worked so hard to get into that leadership role, and to miss that opportunity, that’s the big thing about maybe not having a season,” said Bradley. “This is crazy. I’m 52 and I’ve never seen anything like this.”