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The Redbud City: What a come back!

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
GIRLS TEAM - STATE RUNNERS-UP: Under the leadership of tennis coach Ron Sharp, the Lady Wolves were back in the picture as a state power in the spring of 1984, with a second-place tie for the state title. (l-r) TOP ROW: Angie LaReau, Kim Benton, Maya Balan, Jackie Waddle, Susan Emmenegger, Renee Souleret, & Shauna Lowe . FRONT ROW: Shannon Clark, Susan Dimiceli, Jami Hale, Amy Tallchief, Kristi Sparkman, Andrea Myers, and Coach Sharp.
BOYS TEAM - STATE CHAMPS IN 1984: (l-r) TOP ROW: Ardis O’Connor, Gary Coffman, Mike Hinkle, Todd O’Neal, Scott Dale, Patrick Turner, Jeff Waddle, Steve Brooks, & Chris Basham. FRONT ROW: Hector Garcia, Steven Landes, John Winterringer, Thor Henson, Brad Jerome, Mark Sheppard, and Coach Ron Sharp.

After being dismissed as tennis coach at the end of the 1981-82 school term, after an apparent disagreement with the athletic director, Ron Sharp was re-instated for the 1983-84 school term as the tennis coach for both the girls’ and boys’ teams. He had a resume of success in the program that was equaled by few. After more than 30 years since the incident, the basic story was a disagreement with the Athletic Director Jerry Johnston on moving the boys’ athletic program to the first hour of the day.

After a year of an “also-ran” season, Sharp returned to the program and things turned around immediately. In the first week of May of 1984, the girls’ team finished tied for second in the state meet. That was followed the next week with a championship by the boys’ team, downing the Edmond Bulldogs, who had dominated the state tournament for four years.

“If dad had been here, he would have been so happy he would have cried,” said Thor Henson Tuesday afternoon, May 8, after Shawnee snapped a four-year Edmond domination by capturing the Class 4A state tennis tournament at the Oklahoma City Tennis Center. Henson, a senior whose father Floyd, died April 28, teamed with sophomore Mike Hinkle to win the No. 2 doubles title over Edmond’s rivals.

The team outcome was not decided however, until second-seeded senior Jeff Waddle, playing in the last 4A match of the day, clipped the top-seeded Edmond netter for the No. 2 singles championship.

Shawnee, the last team to win a state championship (1979), accumulated 13 points, while Edmond’s four-year reign finished with 12 points. Jenks finished third with seven points.

“We won the tournament for Mr. Henson,” said Shawnee coach Ron Sharp. “He was the president of the booster club and had helped us for a lot of years.”

Edmond claimed its only champion when their team upended Shawnee’s seniors John Winterringer and Steve Brooks in the No. 1 doubles finals. Shawnee’s other entry, No. 1 singles performer, Pat Turner, finished fourth. Turner, who was unseeded, fell to the top seed in tournament from Jenks.

Henson and Hinkle, who lost their only regular season match with the Edmond competitors, hung on in the first set after jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Shawnee closed out the second set on a Hinkle overhead slam. It came after a Hinkle serve and an errant Edmond lob on match point.

Waddle had lost four of five career matchups to the Edmond netter prior to Tuesday. Waddle, with the serve advantage, quickly jumped out in front 40-0 and faced match point. After several shot exchanges, the Edmond player could not handle a chest-high back hand and his shot sailed over the back line, giving Waddle the victory.

That set off a joyful celebration by the Shawnee squad, which was sitting on a hill behind the match. “I knew the championship depended on my match when one of the Edmond guys said something,” said Waddle. “I just tried to keep the ball in play because I knew he wasn’t very consistent. That was the weakness of his game. He misses some easy shots after making some great ones.”

Top-seeded Winterringer and Brooks reached the finals with three straight-set wins, but never seemed to get in sync against the third-seeded opponents.

Sharp, who resumed the Shawnee past during the season after a one-year absence, had now guided the Wolves to four state championships. Henson, who had teamed with Jim Shaughnessy to win the 1982 double title, said he was re-motivated during the year by his family and the return of Sharp.