High School sports state championships are often the pinnacle of heckling for fans, but rarely does it get so bad that the athlete quits right in the middle of a championship match.
But that’s how Bow (N.H.) High School senior Sunday Swett won her the title of girls single tennis state champion. Apparently, the heckling got so bad that her opponent, Briana Leonard from Bishop Guertin (N.H.) High School, walked off the court after their first set, got in her parents’ car and left.
“We had an unfortunate experience,” New Hampshire Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Director R. Patrick Corbin told the Nashua Telegrah. “I’ve never seen something like this at a tennis match.”
By leaving the match, Leonard forfeited the championship, which Swett gladly accepted. Swett had won the first set 6-4 and only needed one more win for the championship.
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According to Leonard’s parents, the crowd was heckling her because she lives in Massachusetts, but attends school in New Hampshire.
“They were bullying her,” Karen Leonard told the Telegraph. “This has been going on for two years. They’ve wanted her out for two years because she’s not a New Hampshire girl. Because we live in Massachusetts.”
Heckling, as Leonard’s coach admitted, is just another part of the sport that athletes have to deal with. Tuning them out and focusing on the game is the usual course of action athletes take during big matches, but Leonard apparently wasn’t willing to do that.
“Bri was heavily not the crowd favorite today,” Bishop Guertin coach Barry Ndynia told the Telegraph. “But in sports that’s something you have to deal with. Some people will not cheer for you. They’ll cheer for your opponent. That’s why I was trying to keep her focused.”
As for Swett, she isn’t too upset that her win is on account of a forfeit.
“I’ve played her before [including a 6-0, 6-1 loss to Leonard in the 2012 quarterfinals], and, not to be mean, but I know she has an attitude, and I was ready to put up with it,” Swett told the Concord Monitor. “But this brought it to a whole new level.”