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Sports: Harrison Richmond joins elite ranks of tennis All-Americans
By Roger Greene
Be it in the classroom or on the tennis court, Waccamaw High junior Harrison Richmond has the ability to make up for lost time.
Despite not focusing on tennis until he was around 11, Richmond won the prestigious Dunlop Orange Bowl tournament at 14.
And though a busy traveling tennis schedule keeps him away from Waccamaw for weeks at a time, he continues to excel academically, ranking in the top five in his class.
Richmond’s career took another step when he was named one of 40 All-Americans by the National High School Tennis All-American Foundation.
Richmond was presented his award on Monday in the school’s media center by former WHS teammate Wesley Moran, who is now playing at Clemson University.
Monday’s presentation, as well as Moran’s appearance, were surprises for Richmond. Having just finished a tournament in Florida – where he reached the semi-finals – he had been up until 1:30 a.m. finishing a school project.
Before leaving for school, Richmond’s mother, Gayle, reminded him to wear something nice as Waccamaw’s tennis team was scheduled to have pictures made that day. Of course, as everyone but Richmond knew, the photo op was for him.
“You get rewarded with things like this,” Richmond said, as he looked around the room filled with teammates and family who came to celebrate his All-American status. “I’m [just] proud to represent Waccamaw and do what I do.”
Richmond was one of only six non-seniors to be named an All-American. Walker Heffron of Bishop England and Kyle Koch of Chapin are the only other South Carolinians on this year’s list. They are both seniors.
Richmond is the second Waccamaw player to be selected. Moran was honored during his senior season.
“[Being an All-American] hasn’t sunk in yet,” Richmond said. “It’s a hard thing to do, especially for a junior.”
Richmond was honored in large part because of his performance in the foundation’s annual tournament in Newport Beach, Calif. The Warriors have competed in the event the last several years and Richmond has never lost a match there.
Richmond’s performance in the International Tennis Federation junior circuit and his undefeated record in South Carolina high school tennis were also factors.
When presented with Richmond’s nomination, foundation executive Tim Mang told Waccamaw coach James Brown, “I’ve seen him play, I know what he can do.”
“Many of the coaches that bring teams to the tournament are on the All-American committee,” Brown said. “With his record out there, Harrison has been on the all-tournament team three years in a row. There is probably not a better platform he could have.”
Richmond, 17, plays in the 18s division in the ITF and is ranked 231 out more than 1,800 juniors. His tournament schedule has taken him across the United States as well as to France, Spain, England, Canada and Mexico. He recently played in events in Columbia and Ecuador and is considering returning to Europe for tournament play this summer.
“It’s a very small difference [in the rankings],” Richmond said. “It won’t be easy, but I believe I will be able to move up.”
Being left-handed separates Richmond somewhat from his competition as does his ability to formulate strategy during his matches.
“There is probably a little advantage for him being left-handed due to the angles and spin the ball comes off the racket with,” Brown said. “That would be especially true on the serve. But what really works in his favor is his consistency and determination. He’s always trying to set his opponent up. He doesn’t play one shot at a time, he’s thinking a couple of moves ahead.”
Though many players ahead of him in the rankings are home-schooled, Richmond prefers to attend Waccamaw. When he is in school, he departs after lunch each day for an hour workout followed by at least four hours of practice on the court. Making up school work requires many long nights and he also can earn credits via online courses.
“It’s certainly not a schedule the typical high school student could handle,” Brown said. “He’s balancing both the responsibilities of playing competitive tennis and academics, and he is performing at a very high level in both. What he’s doing takes a tremendous level of commitment. Not many kids his age would be able to handle all that.”
Given his ability, Richmond is hearing from a bevy of colleges including Virginia, Duke, Stanford and Southern California.
“Most likely, he’s going to have the opportunity to play at one of the top programs,” Brown said. “He’ll be playing with and against the best players in America. He’s on track for some really positive things in his life. He won’t take any of it for granted, he’ll max out his opportunities and make the most of them.”