Patterson hits the trail in search of better tennis |

Patterson hits the trail in search of better tennis

Kelly Patterson, a graduate of South Tahoe High School, has ventured off the court and onto the beaten path in search of better tennis.

With her tennis eligibility up at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif., Patterson refused to sit around. Instead, she has elected to join the college’s cross country team, along with another one of the two-year college’s players, her coach, Mary Pastore, and one of her friends.

“It’s a change,” Patterson said. “I never thought I’d be running just for fun. It’s fun when you have people to run with.

“I’m basically thinking of it as conditioning, to stay with it, and it’s helped my tennis a little bit because I’m moving my feet and I’m conditioned more,” Patterson said.

Patterson is using her experience on the cross country team to keep fit as she finishes her associate degree before transferring to a four-year college to complete her career. But don’t look for her to give up her racquet for running shoes any time soon.

“It is running,” she said. “I’m still surprised I’m doing it.”

One of her closest observers is her former tennis coach, Pastore, who joined the team with Patterson. Pastore no longer is just a coach, but a student-athlete once again. Not only has the cross country experience – and a full course load – given her a new view of what her tennis-team charges go through, it’s given her a closer look at Patterson as well.

“She is much stronger, much more fit, and from a physiological standpoint, I’d say she has much-improved core strength, which is very important for a tennis player,” Pastore said. “It also gives an athlete an opportunity to explore some psychological or emotional facets.”

Patterson hasn’t given up running lines for running trails, though. Even though she can’t compete with Chabot’s team, she still practices with her old teammates. And she’s taken her game to new courts, hitting with members of Chabot’s men’s team and with older women who play tennis.

Patterson anticipates a change moving from junior college tennis to major college tennis as dramatic as the change from the high school game to JC. Patterson already is adjusting, playing against men who put more power and a different spin on the ball; and playing against older women, who don’t bring as much power to the baseline as players Patterson’s age, but can place shots precisely where they want them.

“At this level, the competition is really interesting because it’s a junior college, so you can have players of different abilities,” Patterson said, adding four-year schools are more able to look for good players.

She plans on transferring to the University of Southern Utah, but hasn’t ruled out an offer from Oakland’s Mills College, which also offered her a scholarship. She’s leaning toward Southern Utah.

After coaching Patterson for two years, Pastore knows what the college Patterson chooses will get.

“I think she’ll do really well,” said Pastore said of Patterson, who has competed in championship tournaments, league play, USTA tennis – and recently won a share of the Tahoe Classic doubles title.

“In the past two years, I’d say she gained a lot of experience from a lot of different areas. She’s explored a lot of different areas of tennis.”

Five returning players have helped ease the transition for Pastore since Patterson left the Chabot team, but her hard work and leadership have been harder to replace.

“Definitely, Kelly was a real asset for us,” Pastore said. “We’ll still be a strong team, but it’s hard to lose the really good kids.”

However, Pastore’s history with Patterson continues. On Oct. 1, they’ll run a cross country meet together, as teammates.

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