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3A tennis class could mean more qualifiers

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With regional tennis just two weeks away, local tennis teams are considering the possibility of qualifying for state in a new light.

Beginning this year the Colorado High School Activities Association has three classes of tennis, 5A, 4A and 3A. Schools with enrollment of up to 1,059 students drop from Class 4A to 3A, which means smaller schools like Paonia, the smallest school in Region 8 with 152 students, Cedaredge with 259, and Delta with 610 students, won't compete against true 4A schools for the first time since the CHSAA sanctioned the sport in the 1990s.

The only two Region 8 schools to remain in Class 4A are Durango (1,066), and Montrose (1,326).

While they still competed against larger schools like Glenwood Springs (897 students), Paonia first-year head coach Dee Holt said the change is welcome. Holt's daughter, Jessie Holt, was a two-time state qualifier for Paonia, and the only girls tennis player in the North Fork area to play at the state level.

"We are still in a really tough region, even without Montrose and Durango," said Holt. And they still have to compete against Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Vail, all of which offer year-round tennis facilities and coaching by tennis pros.

Delta coach Mike Chastain said all of this year's 3A teams are fairly close in their level of play and no one team is dominating. For Delta, "There have been a few tiebreakers this season," he said. "It builds character fast."

Region 8, in which Delta, Paonia and Cedaredge compete, also includes Steamboat Springs, which has dominated regional tournaments in recent years and claims the majority of individual regional titles.

But with the top two players in each level advancing to state, with Montrose and Durango out of the way, second place is more within reach.

The regional tournament is scheduled for May 4 and 5 and will be played at Canyon View Park complex in Grand Junction.

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