When Chris Linquist came to Prairie High School in 1983 with a desire to teach and coach tennis, she never imagined the courts would be named after her one day.
As the Falcons and the Skyview Storm got ready for their annual mixed doubles tournament on June 5, Linquist was speechless after she was told the school’s courts will now be called the Chris Linquist Tennis Facility. This was her final event as a coach, before starting the next chapter of her career as a counsellor at Captain Strong Elementary.
“I knew since high school and college that I wanted to help kids. To be able to teach, coach and pull counseling into that for 34 years has been a dream come true because you don’t always get to earn a living tied to your passion,” Linquist said. “Tennis has brought so much joy to my life. You expect these kids to leave it all out there on the court, and so you do the same as a coach. You’ve lived and died by their victories and losses. It’s hard work, but I would not have continued through 66 seasons and teams if it wasn’t tremendously rewarding.”
This journey has never been about personal gain for Linquist. She only wanted to teach students they could achieve success in this game and in life through hard work and dedication. During her time as a coach, the Prairie boys and girls tennis teams combined for 30 league and regional titles. The Prairie girls also captured academic state championships in 1999 (3.88 GPA), 2004 (3.86 GPA) and 2006 (3.78 GPA).
Linquist was honored to help 43 Falcons reach the state tournament. Natalia Agarcheva earned the state singles championship in 2007. Shiori and Akari Baba rallied from four games down in the third set to become state doubles champions in 2012. Linquist lists that comeback as one of the defining moments of her career.
The mixed doubles tournament between Prairie and Skyview goes back to when the teams were in the same league. It has always been a friendly competition to see who has the most school spirit.
“Any time you can get 65 kids from two different schools together playing tennis without keeping score, that’s incredible,” Linquist said. “If they had fun, they won. That’s all that matters.”
The highlight of the event was seeing the costumes each team wore. Seth Tripp and Emma Tuttle had the urban cowboy and cowgirl look down for Prairie. All that was missing was a mechanical bull.
“I was kind of worried about playing tennis with boots on,” Tuttle said. “I think it turned out as well as it could.”
“Tennis is one of my favorite things to do,” Tripp said. “It didn’t matter how ridiculous we looked. Bottom line, there was a smile on my face.”
Skyview’s Tyler Church and Grace Newcomb dressed up like Superman and Wonder Woman.
“I think it was successful,” Church said. “We may have saved the world and the tennis courts.”
“Who could have asked for a better partner,” Newcomb added.
Church and Newcomb were honored to play in Linquist’s last event as a coach.
“I’ve heard so many good things about her,” Newcomb said.
“Coming from another team’s stand point, I know all of the coaches love her and all of the players love her,” Church said. “They think a lot of her.”
Tripp graduated from Prairie in 2017. Although he is taking classes and running track at Corban College, he had to come back home and say goodbye to his favorite coach.
“Linquist and I have been through some tough matches,” he said. “Without her, I would have given up. What she has taught me, I will carry on through the rest of my life.”
“I think it’s kind of perfect to send her off this way,” Tuttle added. “Watching all of us having fun playing tennis.”