Winning a state doubles championship as a sophomore boosted the belief Tana Harris had in her tennis game.
That title also taught Harris an equally valuable lesson the following season.
“I never imagined winning a state championship. Now it has opened my eyes to trying a lot of things that I didn’t think I could do,” Harris said.
“Last season I had to struggle through that I won a state championship, but I can’t go off my laurels. I had to go work hard every day. I lost my number two position (in singles) for a while and I had to work hard to get it back.”
Harris, who teamed with Hannah Jenne to claim the 1A doubles title in 2017, hopes to build on the experience of both seasons as she enters a senior year in which she’ll likely serve as Polk County’s No. 1 singles player. That’s a role that Jenne filled for the past two seasons, reaching the state 1A singles semifinals last fall and earning Western Highlands Conference Player of the Year honors. With Jenne having graduated, Harris is the frontrunner to fill the lead singles spot for the Wolverines.
“If I’m at number one, as I’d like to be, it’s going to be a rough ride. I’ve never played that level in high school,” Harris said. “To follow in Hannah’s shoes is even more difficult.
“I’m going to have to face a lot of really skilled players. I don’t expect to win as many matches as in the past, but I’m going to try to.”
That determination, paired with a solid work ethic, has helped Harris become a two-sport standout at Polk County as well as one of the top students in the Class of 2020. In addition to her tennis exploits, Harris also qualified for the state outdoor track and field championships in the pole vault, placing fifth at the state meet in Greensboro, and competed in the state indoor championships as part of the 4×200-meter relay team.
Harris, who also plays soccer, credits her older brother for her athletic interests. Tyler Harris was an all-conference baseball player who graduated from Polk County in 2018.
“I always did what my brother did. He played basketball, so I played basketball. He played baseball, so I played softball. He played tennis, so I started playing tennis,” Harris said. “He stopped, but I ended up staying with it and loved it. I broke away from what my brother used to do and started doing what I liked.”
Juggling tennis and academics hasn’t been easy for Harris, one of Polk County’s junior marshals last year. But she admits that the same drive that pushes her on the court also fuels her efforts in the classroom.
“I feel like I’m kind of a perfectionist,” said Harris, who hopes to pursue a career in engineering. “That makes me competitive. I want to get better at things every time. I’m always working to get A’s, and so far I haven’t gotten a B my entire high school career and not I’m not about to start. I work hard at whatever I do, school or sports.
“When I’m studying, I put down the phone and focus until I get things done. There were times on the bus last year where I had to do my homework. But I just make sure I get it done and I don’t get distracted. I don’t like staying up late, so I try to get things done.”
And, usually, do them very well.