I have covered a lot of kids over the past 20+ years covering sports, but few have been as pleasurable to write stories about as West Holmes senior Rachel Nelson has been.
Here is a kid who, win or lose, was patient with the dumb questions we reporters tend to ask, as well as thoughtful and insightful with some of her answers.
Granted, Nelson didn't lose very often during her four-year career, earning All-Ohio status each season. She placed fourth at state her freshman year in doubles when she teamed up with her sister, Mary. Then, her sophomore season she finished second to defending champ Alyssa Ritchie. She followed that up by winning it all her junior year, knocking off her frequent foe from Lexington, Courtney Earnest. This year Nelson finished third, getting knocked out in the semifinals by her friend and weekend practice partner My Linh Li of Columbus St. Francis DeSales.
When Nelson lost, she gave her friend a big hug at the net and wished her well.
Both players talked about being friends off the court, but once they get between the lines, no holds are barred. Li and her sister Kim My Li teamed up to win the state champions when My Linh was a freshman. Li finished third last year (thanks to Nelson) and then placed second this year.
West Holmes coach Jason Otto talked about how lucky he has been as a coach to have a player like Rachel.
Some players of Nelson's caliber opt not to play for their school team, choosing instead to play in national USTA tournaments throughout the year.
Rachel does both, but concentrates on playing for the school during the fall tennis season.
She is a great teammate, as was evidenced by the fact that her teammates from this year as well as last year made the trip to Columbus to cheer her on at state.
Even though she didn't win it all this season, Nelson proved to be a champion in my book. She is a courteous, well-spoken, extremely talented young lady with a great future ahead of her.
It was very fitting that I ended last week interviewing her. I started the week talking with another former West Holmes sports legend who is as delightful to write about as Nelson. That young man is Colt Sponseller.
I talked with the three-time state champion and Ohio State All-American about his recent dalliance into the international world of wrestling, his quest to become a member of the US Olympic team in 2016 and his future plans as a college wrestling coach.
He took third at a competition over in Finland in October, winning a bronze medal. He was offered a job as an assistant coach at Ediboro University in Pennsylvania.
These are two of the nicest kids I've covered in my career, and it's great to see good things happening to them.
It is a treat to see people take advantage of their God-given skills and make the most of their opportunities.