At some point in his young life, Malachi Coleman will turn his attention toward more serious and life-long pursuits — big-brain items. Physics. Math. Engineering.
But whatever robust career awaits him, his immediate future will be devoted entirely to tennis.
“I want to travel and explore and immerse myself in some different cultures,” he said.
Albuquerque Academy’s whip-smart and unbeatable senior this week closes out his rather abbreviated Chargers career as he attempts to win back-to-back Class 5A state singles titles. And he also is expected to power Academy to an unfathomable 15th consecutive team boys championship by Saturday.
Coleman will be college-bound eventually, with an eye cocked toward the Ivy League, but after his prep commitments are finished at Academy, Coleman won’t be preparing for college.
In what he describes as a “gap year,” Coleman will spend the rest of the calendar year playing USTA junior tournaments and perhaps even try qualifying for some minor professional events.
So long as he does not accept more than $10,000 in prize money, and Coleman said he didn’t expect to make “one penny,” he will retain his amateur status for Division I.
“It’s an opportunity to experience the world that you can’t get when you’re older,” said Coleman. “An interesting time in your life where you haven’t fully matured and you’re still developing.”
There is little argument that Coleman is New Mexico’s best player. With his fierce ground strokes and relentless precision, he has rampaged through his last two seasons with little resistance, and he is the overwhelming favorite in 5A this week. He hasn’t dropped a set all year, and nobody has won more than four games from him in any set, and that was his teammate Abraham Yohannes, who is seeded No. 2 at state this week behind Coleman.
“He’s just a very focused, motivated kid,” said his father, Stephen. “If there’s a task in front of him, he really tries to accomplish it.”
Both of Coleman’s parents were college tennis players, Stephen — the man whose name headlines the city’s women’s professional tennis event — at Holy Cross and mother Erica at Appalachian State.
But tennis was not a natural fit for Malachi, at least not at first.
“When I was young, they tried to put me into classes, but I didn’t think that it was for me,” he said.
He toiled in the usual sports — baseball, basketball, football, soccer. Even taekwondo, where he earned his Black Belt several years ago.
But one year when he was about 12 he was playing a tennis tournament at the Jerry Cline courts, skipping a basketball commitment to compete.
“I didn’t expect to make the finals,” Coleman said. “And I ended up making it to the second day. That was it. I didn’t want to do anything else.”
Football might have been his best option were it not for tennis. He was a standout running back on a La Cueva YAFL team that included recent seniors like Josh Woisin and Chris Campbell.
But in a roundabout way, it was the time and energy invested in the team sports that created a hiccup.
“By the time he was a freshman,” his father said, “he was burned out on team sports.”
So he didn’t play for the Chargers as a ninth grader. Or as a sophomore, when he spent that season at a tennis academy in Southern California. Today, he is practically a tennis fiend.
“The kid plays more tennis than any kid out there in the state,” Academy coach Ray Jaramillo said. “He has the biggest serve in the state. He’s the strongest kid in the state. He’s also the fastest kid in the state. So it’s hard for other players to beat him.”
Only twice since 2005 has a boy from a school other than Academy won state singles in the second-largest classification.
Corley out, Corley in
It’s no surprise that a Corley from Eldorado is seeded No. 1 in 6A girls singles — but it is not the two-time defending champion, Ivana Corley.
Ivana, a junior who has committed to the University of Oklahoma, decided to play just individual doubles this week. Her sister, freshman Carmen Corley, is the No. 1 seed instead. Ivana Corley is trying to become the first girl at Eldorado to win state in singles, doubles and as part of a team.
The Eagles’ Michael Mounho, who won it all last year, is the No. 1 boys seed.
Individual singles and doubles are today and Thursday; all six singles finals are 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Jerry Cline complex.
The team portion of the event runs Friday and Saturday, with the big-school divisions at Jerry Cline.
La Cueva’s boys and Eldorado’s girls are top-seeded in Class 6A. Academy’s boys and Los Alamos’ girls have No. 1 seeds in 5A, and Robertson’s boys and girls both are seeded first in 1A-4A.
The 5A and 6A finals are at Jerry Cline. Class 1A-4A is at Albuquerque Academy.