LAKE STEVENS — It’s not uncommon for high school athletes to play more than one sport and Lake Stevens sophomore Shaelyn Huot is just another example.
But the other sport that the Vikings tennis player competes in is far from ordinary. Since Huot was 5-years-old she’s played hockey. Two years ago she felt it was time for a change, so she took up tennis.
“The hockey gave me a lot of that hand-eye coordination,” said Huot, who credits some of her success on the tennis court to skills she learned on the ice. “I was just really quick on my feet and I was able to pick (tennis) up really fast.”
Despite picking up tennis seriously just before high school, Huot has emerged as one of Lake Stevens’ most talented players. She has started this season as the No. 3 singles player behind Megan and Erin Huffman, a pair of talented senior twins for the Vikings. The Huffman’s, who placed fifth as a doubles pair at the 4A state tournament a year ago, will move over to doubles at midseason and Huot will take over at No. 1 singles just as she did a year ago.
Huot’s rapid rise from tennis novice to one of the top players for Lake Stevens can be credited mostly to her work ethic and willingness to learn.
“She’s very polished for a sophomore,” Lake Stevens tennis coach Jesse Bloomberg said. “And she’s very coachable, not just in the sense that she’s a pleasure to be around, but you can tell her to do something and try to change something and you can see her actively implement that into her game. Very few people are able to do that so quickly.”
It’s not just coaches who find Huot a dream and a breath of fresh air. Teachers are also impressed. Despite holding down a class schedule that includes chemistry, pre-calculus and college-level Spanish, Huot maintains a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom.
Huot gets up early every day and goes to school until classes get out around just after 2 p.m. That leaves her with just over an hour to go home and start on her homework before she has to come back for tennis practice. And when practice ends, she heads back home to finish her homework.
“Eating and sleeping goes in there somewhere,” Huot added with a laugh.
And somehow, she not only succeeds, but excels at both athletics and academics.
“It’s truly beyond me,” Bloomberg said. “I have no idea how any human does that. I certainly couldn’t do that. I don’t ever see her stressing about that stuff. I think she’s quite gifted intellectually as well.”
Perhaps even more impressive than her accomplishment is how she’s handled all the success.
“What stands out to me about her is you never catch her bragging about anything,” Bloomberg said. “You almost have to pull it out of her, all these things she’s been involved in and how successful she’s been at everything, but she’s still very, very humble.”
Another factor in Huot’s improvement has been learning from her competition. Going up against players like Kamiak’s Sally Park, who finished fourth at state a year ago, have shown Huot some of the things she needs to work on in her own game.
Huot admits she was shy at practice and timid on the court when she first joined the team at Lake Stevens, but facing tougher competition has also given her become more confident in matches.
The biggest influence on Huot’s game has been the two players she competes against nearly every day in practice — the Huffman twins.
“I always like to play people that are better than me because that’s when you really learn,” Huot said. “I feel like playing them really helped me a lot. They know my weaknesses because they’ve seen me play and they are so experienced and great at that. It’s really great when they actually work with me and give me their knowledge.”
That knowledge, added to the hard work Huot has put in since last season ended, has her poised to give either of the Huffman sisters a difficult match in practice challenges.
“Last year she couldn’t have beaten the twins,” Bloomberg said. “This year they are at about the same level.”
Huot said her goal is to make it back to districts this season and she hopes to advance to state, if not this year, sometime before she graduates in 2016.
Looking at the success she’s had in almost everything she does, there’s no reason to think it won’t happen.
“Whatever she decides she wants to focus on, she’s going to be great at it,” Bloomberg said. “Or she’s just going to be a well-rounded awesome human. The whole world really is her oyster.”
After over a decade of hockey, Huot said she still loves the game, but for now tennis is the main focus.
“Really for me, it (hockey) has been for fun,” Huot said. “I’ve debated going to a girls league and trying to play in college, but then I started playing tennis and my love for this sport is constantly growing.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.