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The Chanute Blue Comets girls tennis team comes together for a photo at the team’s postseason banquet on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. Back row, left to right: Pauline Pyhrr, Mackenzie Leroy, Alice Griffith, Rylee Smith, Tyra Bogle, Grace Thompson, Aaliyah Colding and Aimee Maxton. Front row, left to right: Dejah Colding, Hannah Langen, Lena Aguilar, Jeanette Guernsey, Laynie Jones, Paige Kueser and Ava Campbell. Zoie Speaks (not pictured) did not attend due to an illness.


It can be easy to fall victim to making parts of the awards season process devolve into a simple formality.

To save some of the voters’ time and energy, an accomplishment such as a Coach of the Year award could just be handed out to whichever program finished at the top of the standings, without a second thought because of its subjectivity.

But the fact that that’s not how it played out for Chanute Blue Comets girls tennis coach Michael De La Torre and his new SEK League Coach of the Year award made the honor just a little more special for the local head coach.

“I was thrilled and humbled because we have so many great coaches in the SEK League,” De La Torre said. “I was actually a little surprised because we took second in the League instead of first.”

When Chanute athletic director Chris Shields broke the news to De La Torre via email last week, the Blue Comets head coach rushed to fire off a message to his players and their parents.

He wanted to be the first to tell them about the honor and that their effort and success all season was the reason SEK League coaches tabbed De La Torre with the honor instead of first-place Independence or another team.

“I really believe they improved a lot over the summer, then we just fine-tuned things during the season,” De La Torre said. “It was their hard work that earned this. I also have to give credit to Max Ruark, my assistant coach, because he was such a big help during the season.”

Those summer improvements by the Blue Comets led to a second-place finish in the SEK League Tournament in October after each of Chanute’s singles players and doubles pairings won all but one of their matches for the day.

At the subsequent Regionals meet, five Chanute players — Tyra Bogle/Grace Thompson and Lena Aguilar/Hannah Langen in doubles and Aimee Maxton in singles — qualified for the KSHSAA Class 4A Girls Tennis State Tournament. Bogle and Thompson earned 10th place at the state tournament.

“When you receive an honor like that, it always means a lot,” De La Torre said. “But when you’re voted for by your peers and coaches, it just means more because those are the people we compete with week after week. They see firsthand how myself and the ladies on our team handle ourselves.”

But De La Torre isn’t satisfied.

He wants the Blue Comets to build off the momentum this group has generated after an impressive finish in the SEK League and the postseason run members of the team turned in.

“I want them to enjoy the rest of the school year and the other sports they’re involved in,” De La Torre said, “but come Memorial Day weekend, let’s get back to work and let’s get better.”

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