Juniata’s Eck takes home singles gold

ALTOONA – A miscommunication almost cost Juniata sophomore Isaac Eck a chance to compete in the District 6 Class AA tennis singles championship.

All’s well that ends well, however.

Eck needed less than an hour Saturday morning to dispatch Jeremy Burnheimer of Westmont Hilltop, 6-0, 6-0, in the District 6 Class AA finals at the Leopold Tennis Center.

The Class AA tournament began earlier in the week on Thursday, and when Eck and his coach weren’t present for the opening, tournament officials sensed a problem.

“I don’t know the full story,” Eck said after accepting the championship medal from tournament director Eric Hovan of Altoona. “We got a call to the (high school) office and were told we were late for the tournament.

“We weren’t aware the tournament started that day,” Eck said. “I guess it was a mixup of communications with the school.”

Needless to say, the Juniata contingent headed for Altoona immediately.

“I didn’t miss that much,” Eck said. “They were still in the same round when we got here.”

Eck, the top seed, had a first-round bye and then beat Jake Lushko of Richland, 6-4, 6-1, in the second round. He followed with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Johnstown’s Eddie Burkett in the quarterfinals and trimmed Andrew Rizkalla of Westmont Hilltop, 6-1, 6-2, in the semis.

“I started a little rough,” Eck said. “But, once I started to get in a groove, I really felt like I dictated the rest of my matches.”

That included Saturday’s final when he eliminated Burnheimer before the Class AAA final’s first set was completed.

The 15-year-old Eck, who is home schooled, has been playing since he was eight years old.

“I’ve been playing since I watched the U.S. Open with my Nana when I was like eight,” he said. “That’s when I first picked up a racquet. I began playing USTA tournaments when I was 10, and I play a lot of summer tournaments.”

His ultimate goal?

“I’d love to be a professional,” Eck said, “but Division 1 or 2 (college) is a goal as well.”

As a freshman, Eck won the District 6 Class AA doubles title with teammate Logan Aurand after losing in the singles final, so he knows what to expect when he heads for Hershey for the PIAA state tournament on May 24.

“I’ll take one match at a time there because everyone is so good at states,” he added.