KENNEWICK — Sophomore phenom Ben Lee took a major leap in his high school tennis career over Memorial Day weekend in the Tri-Cities.
The budding Jackson High School star carried over his second-straight district singles title from the fall, turning in a first place finish in the 4A state tournament at the Pacific Clinic and Kamiakin High School.
After claiming fifth place as a freshman in 2022, Lee put forth a dominant effort in his championship run as he blazed through the singles bracket without dropping a set.
“Ben played extremely well for us all weekend,” longtime Timberwolves coach David Hutt said. “And on Saturday morning, he was ready to go, he just stayed consistent and out-matched his opponents. It was pretty impressive to watch.”
Lee beat Austin Egan of Rogers (Puyallup) in Round 1 by scores of 6-0, 6-0 on May 26. He followed that up with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Ethan Zheng (Redmond) to make the semifinal round. On May 27, Lee kept it rolling as he cruised past Aiden Braiser (Camas) 6-1, 6-2.
In the title round, Lee broke through with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Bellarmine Prep’s Vasanth Ramachandran, who was also undefeated in all sets prior to his match with Lee. As a team, Bellarmine Prep went an undefeated 11-0 in the regular season.
Hutt said that improved strength and conditioning in his second year at Jackson paid the biggest dividends for Lee’s climb up the ranks as a sophomore.
“While watching the tournament that weekend, to me, Ben was by far the most athletic player there,” Hutt said. “He moves extremely well. And, a year older and stronger and just more mature in his game. That growth is really huge for him, gaining confidence in what he can do.”
Lee also pointed to his offseason workout regime as one of the primary factors in his improvement.
“I think it paid off tremendously, (especially) in some of my first matches at state,” Lee said. “My finishes were better, my mentality was stronger and I was able to handle those pressure situations and moments that I couldn’t before. It felt like it was slightly easier for myself to play under that stress than it was for me last year.”
During breaks between matches, Lee, along with Hutt and several other teammates found themselves in neighboring Richland to watch Jackson’s softball team, which also took home a state title on the same day as Lee, who said it only added to his experience of the weekend.
“That was definitely a special feeling,” Lee said. “Knowing that another Timberwolves team took a trophy home as well. I was just glad that I got to be there and witness it happen.”
Now having hit his next level as a player, Lee looks forward to adding to Jackson’s trophy case in the future.
“It was a true honor to represent and compete for Jackson High School,” he added. “Most of all, I’d like to thank my parents who have played a big part in this and supported me through it all.”