Belen High duo close out careers

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Belen High’s Katee Elkins-Romero and Gilbert Devlin may not have expected to be playing in this week’s State Tennis North-South All-State matches, but they certainly enjoyed the experience.

Elkins-Romero and Devlin both said thy found out at the end of their senior seasons, about two months ago, that they’d been chosen to play for the South squad.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: BELEN HIGH SENIORS Gilbert Devlin, left, and Katee Elkins-Lucero were chosen to represent the South in the second annual ALl-State Tennis Tournament held at the University of New Mexico Tennis Complex this past week.

“I was so excited,” Elkins-Romero said enthusiastically. “I was really excited. It was really unexpected. I didn’t expect to be picked, (so) when I found out, I just thought ‘What an honor.’”

Devlin shored those sentiments.

“It was awesome,” he said of the news that he was chosen to be an All-State player. “I was just happy I could play (again). It was an honor.”

The New Mexico High School Coaches Association revived the All-State Tennis event last season to the delight of many in the tennis community. Devlin and Elkins-Romero were part of the South squad, which was coached by Mayfield coach Judy Harlas and included players from Las Cruces, Carlsbad and Hobbs in addition to an Albuquerque High player.

The North All-Stars beat the South squad 14-7 and neither Belen player was on the winning end of their matches through boys and girls doubles, mixed doubles or singles competitions. But as organizer Dick Johnson said in his closing remarks to players, coaches and parents, the All-State tennis competition is “not about the winning or losing. It’s just fun to get together.”

Elkins-Romero and Devlin both said they came into the beginning practice and festivities on Sunday not knowing many of their fellow All-Staters, but they soon felt a part of the group after practices and All-State festivities like Monday night’s dinner.

“They totally made me and Gilbert feel at home,” Elkins-Romero said. “We had fun, went to dinner with each other, worked with each other. We just grew with another team, which is one of the neat parts of (State All-Stars). You learn to support each other.”

Neither Elkins-Romero or Devlin said they’re going to continue playing tennis at college, Elkins-Romero is going to New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M., a school without a tennis team, where she will study nursing.

Devlin is attending the University of New Mexico’s main campus in Albuquerque.

“My cousin David is trying to talk me into playing for the UNM club team but I’m not sure,” said Devlin.

But if this week’s All-State competition should turn out to be their final competitive tennis, both former Belen players said they had a great time.

“I’m happy,” Elkins-Romero said. “It’s a good ending. It’s a good way to finish up. I played my heart out today. (Losing) was a little bit of a letdown but it was still a good experience.”

Devlin said the experience was a good final high school experience, something some players don’t get to have.

“We got to know new people and that was fun,” he said. “They’re all really, really good. Getting to meet some new people and play high school tennis one last time was really great.”