North Thurston’s Lena Macomson Nearing End of Remarkable Collegiate Tennis Journey

 

By Tom Rohrer

hawks prairie casinoPrior to her freshmen year of high school, Lena Macomson’s athletic experience consisted of riding horses.

When the traveling logistics became too much for her to continue on fillies and thoroughbreds, Macomson, then a freshmen at North Thurston High School turned to a sport where she had to start from scratch.

“I had never picked up a racket before,” said Macomson.  “It was all brand new.”

Macomson had decided to turn out for the Rams girls’ tennis team, looking to spend time with her friends and join the large majority of her classmates in athletic participation.

As expected for a novice player, Macomson started out at the bottom of the Rams JV team.

“I had so much fun that year, but I decided I wanted to be on varsity the next season.  For my birthday, my mom got me lessons and I started playing more and more,” Macomson said.  “Every year I got a little better.  Still, college tennis wasn’t on my radar.”

Nearly nine years later, Macomson is a member of the University of Oregon tennis team preparing for her final season competing at the collegiate level.

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Lena Macomson is a 2009 graduate of North Thurston High School. She is now the #3 singles player on the University of Oregon tennis team. Photo credit: Eric Evans

Born in Lake Oswego, Oregon, Macomson’s family relocated to Lacey in 2003.

Practicing in her free time, at the now defunct Pac-West Tennis, Macomson would become a three time WIAA state tournament participant at NTHS, where she graduated from in 2009.  Macomson competed in the 3A state singles tournament her senior season at NTHS and would parlay her success to Montana State University-Billings.  Her road to Montana, not surprisingly, was atypical of most collegiate athletes.

“When I graduated that June, I was planning on maybe going to the University of Washington.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study and was thinking maybe I would take a term off and figure out what to do,” said Macomson. “One of my coaches, John Campbell, played at Montana State University-Bozeman, and his old coach was coaching at MSU-Billings.  He called (Campbell) and said they needed girls for the team.”

While competing for the Yellow-Jackets, Macomson was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Freshmen of the Year following a 14-8 campaign in singles play.  However, her collegiate career got off to a rocky start.

“I lost my first six matches. I was so nervous,” said Macomson with a laugh.  “I think it was somewhat of a confidence thing.  I always fought this underdog mentality and when I realized I could be just as good as the other players, I really fell into place.”

That season would be Macomson’s last in Billings, as she felt a calling to a higher level, both for tennis and in her academic studies.

“I had so much fun (in Billings) and I’m thankful for my time there.  About halfway through the school year, it occurred to me that I couldn’t see myself staying,” Macomson said. “Academically, I wanted more of challenge and as I had settled into tennis, I realized I had the drive to keep going towards the Division I level.”

After narrowing her two transfer options down to Portland State and the University and Oregon, Macomson decided to attend the latter, enrolling in classes in the fall of 2010.

Macomson had practiced on campus in the summer and fall and was told by coaches she would have a chance to try out for a walk-on position in October.  During tryouts, Macomson had to prove herself yet again.

“It’s almost like I blacked out, I was so nervous.  I didn’t think I could possibly hit a ball,” said Macomson of the tryouts. “But (an Oregon assistant coach) had seen me earlier in the summer and she recognized I was athletic and fit.  Also, I came out of Billings with 3.98 GPA, so I had some off the court assets as well.”

The athleticism present in Macomson can be credited equally to her parents, Wis and Susan, and also her horse riding experience.

“People don’t know that it takes a lot of strength to ride horses. I really didn’t know I was that fast until I was running sprints for practice,” said Macomson. “It’s something my parents blessed me with.  My mom swam at the University of Puget Sound.  I inherited some good genes I guess.”

After earning a spot on the team as a walk-on, Macomson decided to red-shirt in 2010-11, citing a need to train to better acclimate herself to the high level of play in the Pac-12 Conference.

In her first season back competing, Macomson went 2-8 in singles play during the fall and would drop her only dual match in the number six singles position during the spring slate.

“When I first got onto court, it was extremely intimidating but very exhilarating,” said Macomson. “Some of the girls out there have gone on to play at the U.S. Open and just a few years ago I was trying to play in high school tournaments.”

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An avid horseback rider, Lena Macomson transitioned to tennis in high school.  Photo credit: Eric Evans

Last year as a junior, Macomson competed in doubles for the first time collegiately to go along with her duties in the number 6 singles slot.   Competing with Lana Buttner and Julia Metzger, Macomson finished in the number 3 doubles position.

During the summer breaks from school, Macomson would return to Olympia and train with her childhood and high school friend David Schuster, now a senior on the tennis team at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.  Like Macomson, Schuster, and his older brother Michael, were both standouts at North Thurston.  When training in the summer, Macomson and Schuster played in USATA sanctioned tournaments as a mixed doubles duo.

“Excuse the wording, but when I sucked, they would come out to play with me,” said Macomson. “I owe the Schuster’s a lot of credit.”

Macomson can credit a majority of her success to her very own personal drive and determination.  Being an athlete at a well-known institution such as the University of Oregon is something she has yet to get over.

“Having the access to the schools facilities, the coaching staff, all the apparel, it’s pretty amazing,” Macomson said. “I still remember when I first was on the team and got to go to the equipment manager.  I came from a school where I had to buy my own shoes and uniform.  They handed me my own shoes, clothing gear.  You’re well taken care of here, in that regard.”

Enrolled in the Warsaw Sports Marketing Program within the Lundquist School of Business, Macomson will earn her Master’s in Business with a focus in sports.

“It’s been some of the most enjoyable course work I’ve ever had,” said Macomson, whose sister Ellen is a 2009 graduate from Oregon. “It’s given me the opportunity to have a career in sports after I’m done playing.”

Now at the beginning of her final season at Oregon, Macomson can reflect on her tennis career with no regrets and a sense of pride that she was able to compete as such a high level.

“Practicing with the team every day, it makes me realize how far I came.  Being able to compete in an environment against girls from all over the world, it’s pretty special,” said Macomson.

“I’m just looking forward to see what the season has in store.  I don’t want to make any claims, but I will be pushing myself as hard as possible.”

Given Macomson’s track record, that comes to no surprise.

For more information on Lena Macomson, click here.

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