State champions are not a rare sight in Montgomery County.
Football teams from four county schools have won titles since 2000, six wrestlers were crowned champion last winter and six boys' and girls' soccer teams have won the state tournament the past three seasons.
However, it would be difficult to argue that any sport in Maryland has been dominated by Montgomery County teams quite like tennis.
For the second straight season, county tennis players captured four of the five state tournament events. And in 2003, county players won three state titles.
Churchill's Jared Pinsky and Maggie MacKeever highlighted the May 29 tournament by winning their second straight boys' and girls' singles titles, respectively. Whitman's Dan Stahl and Jeff Luse won the doubles title, and Walter Johnson's Tiffany Hodges and Larry Tran were the mixed doubles champion.
What makes county tennis players so successful is no secret. Many top players in the county are also regulars at national tournaments around the country. The high level of competition within the county during the spring season leaves them well prepared for the state tournament.
"They're playing against some of the top people during the season and this gives them an opportunity to be very competitive as opposed to having to travel all the time to play in outside tournaments," Churchill Coach Ben Woods said. "When other kids see these nationally ranked kids come out, they want to come play against them. It brings all the top tennis players out and raises the competition level in the county."
Pinsky, a sophomore, traveled a difficult road to win his second state title. Three times he was forced to knock off Richard Montgomery senior All-Met Michael Goodwin, the 2003 singles champion who is third in the United States Tennis Association's 18-and-under rankings. The pair faced off in the Montgomery County and Region II finals before Pinsky defeated Goodwin, 6-3, 6-2, in the state final.
"I knew it would be tough to win two state titles, but with all the hard work I've put in, I was hoping I'd be able to do it," said Pinsky, who after the tournament added that he will wait to see the level of competition next spring before he decides whether to play again. "Montgomery County is probably the best county in tennis. With all the great players I got to play it was great practice before the state tournament."
All-Met MacKeever faced an equally challenging task in repeating as the girls' singles champion. MacKeever fell to Quince Orchard junior All-Met Alice Chen in the Region II final but knocked off Chen, 6-2, 6-1, in the state final.
Much like MacKeever, Chen competes in many of the top junior national tournaments. The two regularly train together.
"Maggie is on the same level as Jared," Woods said. "She gets an opportunity to play in some tough tournaments."
Woods said the county's top players compete in the spring season with a different motivation than when playing in national tournaments. Though playing against top-level competition is nothing new, representing their high school and playing as part of a team adds a little extra to the matches.
"They all know each other. The girls and boys have been playing together for years," Woods said. "But out there [during the season] they are playing for pride, playing for their school. They seem to step it up a notch. It's not like a weekend tournament when they are playing for themselves. Playing for their school is something they all take seriously."
Pinsky, the USTA's fifth-ranked 16-and-under player, said the most thrilling part of winning back-to-back titles was sharing the honor with MacKeever.
"It's great, two state champs from the same school," he said. "It's really a thrill."