Ardmore standup wraps up tennis career

The Daily Ardmoreite
From left, Benjamin Sanford and Jacob Whitwell  were partners throughout their junior year and
placed fifth at state in 2019.

By Mallory Graves

Some athletes begin playing the sport they love as soon as they learn to walk. This was not the case for Ardmore senior Benjamin Sanford. He stumbled upon his passion for tennis unexpectedly.

“I started playing tennis my freshman year of high school just to try it out,” Sanford said. “I continued to play it, because I learned that I had a passion for it. I also made it to state my freshman year, so that helped me appreciate it that much more.”

Sanford is a 3-time state qualifier and finished his senior tennis season with a 6-2 record. 

During Sanford’s sophomore year, he was voted most improved player on the team. Throughout his junior and senior year of high school, he was named MVP, or Most Valuable Player. Other awards that he won during his final year on the court was the Team Leader and the Hardest Worker awards on the tennis team. Academically, he maintained at 3.44 GPA in high school and was awarded Top English IV Student of Ardmore.  

“When I won team leader of the tennis team, it felt great,” Sanford said. “When I won hardest worker on the team, it made me feel even better, because I knew that I was leading my classmates by example.”

Sanford thanks his coach for helping him get to where he is today. Without Roberts inspiring him to play tennis, he might never have given it a shot.

“My tennis coach, Nathan Roberts, has definitely helped me a lot in this process from encouraging me to give tennis a try my freshman year to putting me and my teammates in the best position to make it to state every year,” Sanford said. “He also taught me many life lessons through tennis that I can use for the rest of my life.”

COVID-19 has taken away from Sanford’s senior year and tennis career. 

“Due to the Coronavirus, I didn’t get to have the full senior year experience with my peers or get to finish my senior tennis season with my teammates,” Sanford said. “COVID-19 has cost me a lot of medals, making it to state and bonding with my new group of teammates. With this global pandemic stopping our tennis season on the second tournament out of 20, it made me not able to achieve my goal of making it to state all four years of my high school career. It also made me fall short of my goal that consisted of achieving 20 plus medals during my tennis career falling short with just 19. Another opportunity I was looking forward to was getting the chance to qualify for All-State. In my first three years of high school, I focused more on football than I did on tennis. This year, I sacrificed my senior football season to spend the year training for tennis. This was the best I had ever been and I was still improving until the season got cancelled. My coach, Nathan Roberts, told me that I was a part of the best two doubles teams that he’s had and that he believed we too, had a chance at state. It was pretty disappointing that we didn’t get the chance.”

In the fall, Sanford will be attending the University of Central Oklahoma to continue his academic career and plans to major in business, but before that on July 23, the tennis team will have their awards ceremony and on July 24, Ardmore High School will finally have their graduation for the class of 2020.”

All jokes turned into a real life scenario that Sanford and Whitwell didn’t know would work out so greatly for them. Nathan Roberts, head tennis coach looks back and laughs at the story of how they both ended up in tennis. 

“Benjamin Sanford and Jacob Whitwell are very similar in many different ways,” Roberts said. “Both boys came from basketball their freshman year and up until this point had never played tennis before, and joked around with me in class saying that they were going to come out for tennis. Ever since then, they’ve been sticking with it, and I didn’t expect them to. I’m glad they did though. Both of these guys got really good at being team leaders and really good at tennis, which is harder than it looks. It takes a lot of skills that Sanford just seemed to naturally have.”