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Terry Sanford’s Drew Hedgecoe follows in mother’s footsteps with tennis success

3-A boys singles championship shows continued family connections


When Drew Hedgecoe brought home the state 3-A boys singles tennis championship recently, the second state tennis title for the young Terry Sanford star, he continued a rich tradition at the high school that dates back nearly half a century.

A quick scan of lists of boys and girls tennis champions in the N.C. High School Athletic Association record book reveals the Terry Sanford team, and the names of talented individual players appear frequently.

Topping the list are twins Lisa Monaco Wheless and Margit Monaco Hicks, who brought home four girls doubles titles from 1977 to 1980.

They grew up during the time of tennis legends like Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe.

Fayetteville was a tennis hub, with local tennis clubs drawing professional players to tournaments.

Hicks, now a local attorney, said she still sees friends who talk about their memories and the competitive spirit to carry on the Bulldog tennis tradition.

There are numerous other multiple state winners in the Bulldog fold, including another pair of twins, Chris and Chip Collins, who took consecutive doubles titles in 1986 and 1987.

Andy Orban was a singles winner in 2002 and 2005, taking a break from singles to win the doubles title with partner Kenny Warner in 2004.

Ryan Noble won doubles with Eric Noble in 2006 and took the singles crown in 2008.

For the girls, Blair Sutton Craig was a three-time singles champion in the early 1990s. She was part of a powerhouse Bulldog team that won four straight titles from 1991 to 1994.

Drew Hedgecoe’s mother, Claire Cheatwood Hedgecoe, was a member of those teams and won a doubles state title with Elizabeth Williams in 1993.

Claire Hedgecoe said it’s hard to pin down the reason for the continued tennis success at Terry Sanford.

“We always heard about the Terry Sanford tennis team,” she said. “I don’t know if that kind of spurred more people or brought more interest along year after year.

“It seemed like there never was a void of talent coming up each year to play there.”

She added many of the players took the game seriously beyond high school tennis, traveling on the state and national circuit of junior tournaments. High school tennis afforded them the rare opportunity to share their interest in the sport.

“It was icing on top when we could all play together on one team,” she said.

Genes apparently have something to do with it too. Claire Hedgecoe’s brother and Drew’s uncle, David Cheatwood, was a state 4-A singles champion in 1995.

In spite of the family history, Claire said she never pushed Drew into the sport, preferring he find his own path in athletics.

From a young age, Claire said Drew played multiple sports. At one point, because of his intense interest in flag football, she thought he might be headed in that direction.

But around the seventh grade, his focus turned to tennis. It appeared for a brief time as a ninth-grader he might take up basketball on the side, but one day he announced tennis was going to be No. 1.

Claire said she sees some similarities between Drew’s game and her brother David’s, but she added Drew has far surpassed her skills, especially in his mental game and handling situations on the court.

Former Terry Sanford tennis coach Gil Bowman, who guided the Bulldogs to some of their greatest team and individual success, praised Drew’s parents for giving him the opportunity to play tennis. He noted the growth of local tennis has spread to Cape Fear High School, where the Colts won the last two state 3-A dual team championships and Brooke Bieniek and Anna Piland captured state doubles titles.

But he is concerned that chances for continued growth of the sport have suffered setbacks.

He pointed to the loss of some local tennis clubs that gave the game a boost years back. He worries that metropolitan areas like Raleigh and Charlotte have more tennis opportunities for developing players.

But with two state titles to his credit, Drew Hedgecoe won’t be slowing down and will keep taking advantage of all opportunities available to improve his game.

Claire Hedgecoe said he will continue honing his play on the junior circuit throughout the year.

“He doesn’t like to sit around,” she said. 

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Fayetteville, sports, tennis, Terry Sanford High School, education