They heard stories of the state championship their mom had won in high school. They watched as their older sister and then older brother became state champions at McPherson High.
Entering their senior year at McPherson, twin brothers Peter and Ryan were without a title of their own.
“There was so much pressure for us to win a state championship,” Ryan said, “it was ridiculous.”
The pressure was relieved in March when the Bullpups won the Class 4A-Division I championship, and the twins added a second title in dominant fashion on Saturday afternoon by teaming up to win the Class 4A doubles title.
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The Horton family tradition had been upheld, as Peter and Ryan joined their older brother Cory, a 2011 state basketball champion, older sister Shelby, a 2008 state basketball champion, and mother Susan as state champions.
“They always give me trouble about who’s the best in what sport and I always had the ability to tell them I was because I had the state titles,” Cory said. “I guess they got rid of that one now.”
Indeed, the family debate on the most athletic Horton has been revived. While that is sure to lead to more heated arguments, Susan Horton was beaming with pride on Saturday.
“We’re really proud of them,” Susan said. “As a family, we all love sports. It’s just been a lot of fun and it’s been fun to do it as a family.”
For three years, the Horton twins came up empty-handed in their pursuit of a state title. They had come close in soccer, basketball and tennis.
When McPherson, a team of 10 seniors that had played together for nearly 10 years, lost 1-0 to Bishop Miege in the state soccer semifinals last fall, time was running out for the dream to come true.
Ryan remembered texting his basketball coach Kurt Kinnamon that night and telling him he was ready to become a champion. And four months later, he was.
“I think we weren’t mentally prepared enough to win before,” Ryan said. “In basketball, we were a lot more prepared and that helped us this season in tennis. We just had a lot more mental toughness and it definitely helped.”
No team even threatened taking a set off of them the entire tournament, as the Hortons realized their advantage playing at the net and rolled through the competition. They took care of their semifinal match against Andover Central’s Cameron Davis and Jacob Thompson 6-4, 6-2, before beating a set of brothers in the finals, Sam and Josh Hilger of Independence, 6-1, 6-0.
The twins completed their transformation as the duo that always had come close to the brothers that graduated Saturday night as two-time state champions.
“It definitely makes you appreciate (winning) a little more,” Peter said. “It feels very nice to win and not lose. It’s always more fun to watch if it’s close, but it’s more fun to play when you dominate.”
Tappan takes third — No one could halt Topeka Hayden’s Hunter brothers from meeting in the singles final, but Trinity freshman Carter Tappan did his best. While he lost to Blake Hunter in 6-0, 6-2, two games won by Tappan were the most by any competitor against the Hunter brothers at state.
Tappan polished off his season with a tidy 6-0, 6-1 victory over Winfield’s Sam Camp to take third in singles. Tommy Hunter defeated older brother Blake in the final 6-2, 7-5.
“This was a loaded field and there were a lot of great competitors out here, so I’m very proud to represent my team, my school, and my God with this finish,” Tappan said. “I’m really proud of third.”
Hayden won the team championship, while McPherson was runner-up.
Other area finishes — Andover Central’s doubles team of Cameron Davis and Jacob Thompson rallied to defeat McPherson’s Dylan Stos and Luke Williams 6-3 in a decisive third set to claim third place. Andover Central’s Matthew Wakefield took fifth in singles after defeating Luke Zoller of De Soto 9-2. Both of Buhler’s singles qualifiers placed, as Mitchell Byers took eighth and Evan Schmidt was 11th after beating Kento Aizawa of McPherson. The Crusaders also placed their doubles team, as Lucas Caywood and Hank Goertzen came in 10th.
First—Tommy Hunter, Hayden, def. Blake Hunter, Hayden, 6-2, 7-5. Third—Carter Tappan, Trinity, def. Sam Camp, Winfield, 6-0, 6-1. Fifth—Matthew Wakefield, Andover Central, def. Luke Zoller, De Soto, 9-2. Seventh—Marcel Rimrodt, Concordia, def. Mitchell Byers, Buhler, 9-1. Ninth—Gabe Johnson, Abilene, def. Paul Juesten, Parsons, 9-3. 11th—Evan Schmidt, Buhler, def. Kento Aizawa, McPherson, 9-8 (7-3).
First—Peter Horton-Ryan Horton, McPherson, def. Sam Hilger-Josh Hilger, Independence, 6-1, 6-0. Third—Cameron Davis-Jacob Thompson, Andover Central, def. Dylan Stos-Luke Williams, McPherson, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. Fifth—Lane Schicke-Pat Hardy, Independence, def. Luke Powell-John Schultz, Miege, 9-5. Seventh—Ross Benavides-Bobby Ho, Parsons, def. Liam Kahmeyer- Christian Kurtz, Pratt, 9-7. Ninth—Bryan Mueller- Colby Works, Iola, def. Lucas Caywood-Hank Goertzen, Buhler, 9-8 (5). 11th—Ben Heath-Josh Russell, Hayden, def. Vince Sylvester-Alex Reed, Ottawa, 9-1.