Wichita — About the only bad thing that can be said for Keith Pipkin's visit to this year's Class 6A boys state tennis tournament is that it ended with a loss.
Otherwise, it was joyous celebration all around as the Free State High senior finished sixth in the singles draw, the top showing by a Firebird in the history of the program.
"He played great. I'm very happy for him and pleased with his performance," Free State coach Jon Renberger said. "A sixth-place finish is simply outstanding. The guys who finished ahead of him are all elite players."
Pipkin, who has signed to play next year at Johnson County Community College, went 2-1 Friday to guarantee himself a medal.
He then split two matches Saturday, beating Olathe North's Andy Schneider, 9-3, before falling to Blue Valley North's Clark Richardson by the same score in the fifth-place match.
Pipkin was one of five Sunflower League players to finish in the top eight, and the five players who finished ahead of him are all underclassmen.
"He was the highest-placing senior in the state. That is significant," said Renberger, pointing out other seniors who either failed to qualify for return trips to state or had given up the game altogether. "I think that's commendable as well, that Keith has stayed with it. He literally, in his high school career, peaked in the last tournament that was available to him."
As a team, Free State tied for seventh. With Pipkin and the doubles team of junior Jack Hull and sophomore Charlie Moffet reaching the big stage, Renberger is hopeful of a carryover effect for the Firebirds' program.
"I think in terms of our boys program, having (Pipkin) finish so high and having won a regional and having a doubles team in (state) : it certainly adds some credibility within the program itself and hopefully makes some of the young kids who are going to play at Free State excited," Renberger said.