Senior standouts recognized

Published 3:33 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Daily News

What Jackson Kuerzi has done on the tennis court speaks for itself.

He’s a multi-year starter on the LaGrange High tennis team, and he’s the number one singles player on a team that will carry a 19-3 record into today’s showdown with Marist in the second round of the state tournament.

For long-time LaGrange coach Kenny Moore, though, Kuerzi’s most positive attribute isn’t his ability to deliver punishing forehands.

“The thing that will stand out about him, even more than his playing, is his commitment to sportsmanship, which is huge for me,” Moore said. “In 40-something years, I don’t think I’ve ever had a kid to exhibit sportsmanship better than Jackson Kuerzi.”

Kuerzi’s prowess on the court, as well as his exceptional sportsmanship, made him an obvious choice to take home one of this year’s Joe Cornett scholarships.

The other Cornett scholarship went to another terrific LaGrange High tennis player, Abbi Lynn Lanier.

The two were presented with the scholarship checks at McCluskey Tennis Center on Saturday during the Cornett Classic tournament.

Joe Cornett, who died in 2012, was a tennis enthusiast who spent a great deal of time at McCluskey, and the tournament was created in his honor.

The scholarships are given each year to deserving seniors on the local tennis teams, and Kuerzi and Lanier are the latest recipients.

As always, Joe Cornett’s wife Michelle was on hand for the scholarship ceremony, and she was joined by her daughter Lindsey and her son Jackson.

Moore was also there to support his players, and he spoke about how much they’ve meant to him.

Lanier is a player Moore has asked a lot of over the years, and he said she has always given 100 percent.

“Abbi Lynn, the progress she made from the ninth grade to the 12th grade is unbelievable,” Moore said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a kid that improved as much as she did. And I’ve never had one more willing to play at any time against anybody, and anywhere. She’s ready to go always.”

After playing singles in previous years, Lanier is now a part of a formidable number one doubles team along with Lizzie Wilkerson.

“She’s played singles ever since she’s been with us, and she’ proven to be an unbelievable doubles player,” Moore said.

As for Kuerzi, he has gone from being an effective doubles player earlier in his high-school career to becoming an elite singles player.

In the region-championship match against Cartersville, Kuerzi got a straight-sets win against a player he lost to earlier.

“He’s played really well in the number one spot,” Moore said. “He’s the best player in the region. He proved that the other day.”

As for Kuerzi’s sportsmanship, Moore said it’s on another level.

“I thought about listing the top 10 examples of sportsmanship I’ve seen, and the problem is, they’d all be Jackson,” Moore said.

For Kuerzi and Lanier, receiving the scholarships at a place that means so much to them made the moment even more special.

They both grew up playing the sport at McCluskey Tennis Center, and they took lessons from head pro Bill Champion and others.

“It’s been like a family out here,” Lanier said. “Everybody is so close together. It’s really nice to have.”

Lanier added that “I started taking lessons from coach Bill. He’s such a positive coach. All the coaches out here are so great.”

Kuerzi, like Lanier, has spent countless hours over the years at McCluskey Tennis Center.

“Most of the time I’m normally here instead of my house,” Kuerzi said.

Kuerzi was honored to receive the scholarship, especially considering some of the players who have won it before.

“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s not the money, it’s awesome to be recognized along with all the great names that have come before.”

Both Kuerzi and Lanier have savored their time as tennis players at LaGrange High.

Lanier is grateful that her senior season has been her best from a team standpoint.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Lanier said. “I’m really excited about this year. This is the furthest we’ve made it, the second round of state. And we placed second at region, and that’s the highest we’ve placed since I’ve been here. So I’m really excited about this team.”

Kuerzi helped the Grangers win a region championship and advance to the state semifinals last year, and the team is enjoying another strong season.

“Just being in this tennis program, I’ve made wonderful memories here,” Kuerzi said. “I wouldn’t go back in time and change anything.”

Kuerzi has particularly liked being the number one singles player this season.

That means he’s constantly matched up against elite players.

“I enjoy going out there and competing against people who always make it fun and challenging for me,” he said.