E.A. Sports Today

Han-dling it all

Donoho exchange student plays for a county title in only his third competitive tennis match, will tackle football next

Donoho sophomore Harrison Han returns a volley in his No. 5 singles championship match Saturday. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Harrison Han watched the ball hit the court, bounce high over his head and disappear over the high fence behind him.

“That was a home run, Dad,” the Donoho sophomore Chinese exchange student said to his host father as his opponent in the Calhoun County Tennis Championships knocked a tennis ball over the fence.

Han was enjoying himself in his first competitive tournament ever, even if he did get his American sports mixed up.

He made his way into the No. 5 singles championship match against Oxford’s Jeremiah Wyatt and took an early lead. But he was unable to overcome Wyatt’s powerful first serve and fell 10-4. Wyatt’s left-handed serve and Han’s double faults on serve prove too much to overcome.

“He had a great serve, it was so tough to hit,” Han said. “It was the first time I have seen a left-handed serve and the spin on his second serve was hard to figure out. He was a very challenging opponent.’

Wyatt’s win helped the Oxford boys to an overwhelming run to the County team title.

The tournament capped a wild week for Han. He was off with a group of Donoho students taking intersession visits to schools such as Duke, Wake Forest and Vanderbilt preparing for their future college days and arrived back Friday night as his doubles match was being called to the court.

He and partner Wilson Russell lost to Wyatt and Landon Macoy 10-5 and then was back on the courts at 8 a.m. Saturday to play singles. He beat Jacksonville’s Ammon Record 10-6 to reach the finals.

Han is a second-year exchange student from Beijing and spent his freshman year just practicing with the tennis team until he could become eligible this year. He spent much time in China practicing in some of the national programs that are in place. That training helped him develop his love for tennis and now he seeks to hone his skills in his new American environment.

Han has also found an interest in American football. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder discovered football at his host family’s house and has become an Alabama fan. He practiced with the Donoho football team this fall and will be eligible next fall to play with the Falcons. He’s likely to be a defensive end.

He had never seen American football until he got to Anniston. The Falcons put him on defense in those fall practices and turned him loose.

“The coach told me to knock down anybody that comes my way in another color uniform and that is what I do,” said Han.

In addition to his athletic pursuits, Han is an honor student, on the Donoho robotics team, the math team, the school photographer and is actively involved with the youth at Parker Memorial Baptist Church.

It will be fun to see him progress as a tennis player. Three matches into his tennis team experience is a glowing success story and an example of what the high-school sports experience is all about.

Brant Locklier is a regular contributor to East Alabama Sports Today. He is Harrison Han’s host father.

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