Arlington boys tennis player Taras McCurdie makes the most of any opportunity presented to him.
That’s because the Eagles’ senior was given the chance for a life with greater hope when his parents, Orysia Lutz and Bruce McCurdie, adopted him from an orphanage in Ukraine when he was just 13 months old.
“My mom and dad picked me up and gave me a second chance to live a fun life, and that’s why, you know, through academics and athletics I’m pretty competitive,” Taras McCurdie said. “I’m trying to make the most of it. I’m not trying to waste it. God gave me this life. I’m trying to make every single moment count.”
Taras was born in Kiyv, Ukraine, the Eastern European country’s capital. According to a study published in the Global Wealth Report in October, 2018, Ukraine ranked 123rd out of 140 countries in terms of citizen’s median personal wealth. Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1992. Political tensions between Ukraine and Russia have been turbulent since, and pro-Russia groups in Ukraine have caused unrest over the past several years.
When Lutz and Bruce McCurdie decided to adopt, they looked to Ukraine, where Lutz’s parents were born. They initially planned to adopt an older child but when Lutz came across Taras’ adoption profile, she said it was like “God intervened.”
“It just put a stamp on my heart: ‘This is your child,’” she said. “My husband says, ‘I thought we were getting an older child.’ And I said, ‘This is it.’ It was the most powerful feeling I’ve ever had.”
When the couple met Taras for the first time at the orphanage, the connection was instant.
Lutz said Taras latched on to his father’s collar and wouldn’t let go. He cried when the couple had to leave for the day.
“(It) was kind of heartbreaking but in a good way because he just instantly wouldn’t let go,” Lutz said. “That happened four days straight.”
“It was quite an experience,” Bruce said. “It’s pretty tough to put into words.”
Over the years, the couple has seen Taras’ drive to succeed in all opportunities he’s presented.
“He does everything with a passion. Everything is important to him,” Lutz said. “Often it’s like, ‘OK, it’s not that critical. Let’s chill.’ But he’s driven and everything is important to him.”
That drive has been evident in Taras’ development on the tennis court. He came out for the team as a freshman with very little experience and made the junior varsity.
Taras said at the time he pretty much just got by on the athleticism and conditioning he had developed playing soccer, which he plans to pursue in college. After spending a season on the boys tennis team, he decided to take lessons over the summer before his sophomore year. He credited his older teammates’ leadership and examples for pushing him to strive for more on the tennis court.
The training results were evident to Eagles coach Ben Mendro, and Taras made the varsity team as a sophomore.
“He went from a run-of-the-mill JV first-timer to boom,” Mendro said.
Heading into last season, Mendro wasn’t sure who his No. 1 singles player would be. Taras left him little doubt after the team started practicing.
“I had a number of guys (to choose from), and he just established himself from day one,” Mendro said.
Taras rose to the occasion as Arlington’s No. 1 singles player, earning the Wesco 3A North singles title before participating at the Class 3A Northwest District tournament.
He said he’d like to defend his title this season, but his ultimate goal is to just have fun and soak in what will likely be his final season playing competitive tennis.
“As long as I’m enjoying it with my friends, that’s all that matters,” he said.
The senior’s drive to succeed is also evident in the classroom, where he holds a 3.9 grade-point average.
Taras has never had the chance to go back and visit Ukraine, but he said he’d like to get the chance to visit and see where he was born.
“I’d be able to keep a memory of it my whole life,” he said.