By Caleb Elliott
The evening ride home feels like an eternity. Lights fill up the darkness of the road and lead the way home. “9:00 p.m.” flashes on the car’s dashboard. This may seem as a familiarity to some students, but for senior Owen Vest this is a common occurrence.
Vest is like most student athletes where he goes from seventh period straight to practice. However, what separates Vest from most others is that after his tennis practice, which lasts from 4-6 p.m., he’ll head straight over to his band practice, which lasts 6:30-8:30 p.m.
“I think that since I really enjoy playing tennis and band it’s something I look forward to rather than something I have to do,” Vest said.
Vest got involved with tennis when a family friend recommended he play in the sixth grade. Since then he hasn’t looked back. Vest began his high school career playing singles on the junior varsity where he achieved a combined record of 33-11 in his freshman and sophomore years.
In his junior campaign Vest was moved up to varsity singles where he finished with a 13-11 record, winning both his sectional and All-HHC (Hoosier Heritage Conference) honors. With all that success his junior year, Vest was looking to flourish in his senior campaign.
Vest started off his highly anticipated senior year playing at number one varsity singles, but didn’t see much success.
Vest started off the season with a 1-7 record at number one singles, which was far from where anyone thought he would start off. Head tennis coach Tim Cleland recognized Vest’s struggles, and decided a change needed to be made.
“Owen was playing a lot of really talented players at number one singles, and was ultimately losing his confidence,” Cleland said. “With number two singles struggling as well we realized something had to happen or we wouldn’t reach our goals of conference, sectionals, and so on.”
So a change was made. Cleland moved Vest back to number 2 singles, where he was more comfortable and familiar with.
One moment this season that showed Vest was right where he needed to be was the conference championship match at Mt. Vernon. Both teams had won two matches each, leading to a decisive number two singles match for Vest.
“It was probably the biggest match I’ve ever played,” Vest said. “The conference championship was on the line and it was crazy.”
Vest was able to notch out the victory for his team and claim the conference title for the fifth year in a row.
“Owen really improved how he handled his mistakes since he first started playing,” Cleland said. “He used to show more anger and frustration when things weren’t going his way, but he’s matured by learning how to handle that frustration. That’s mainly the reason he was able to win those big matches this year.”
Vest’s season ended with another sectional victory, and his first regionals win, but ultimately was stopped at the semi-state level.
“It wasn’t how I wanted my season to end,” Vest said. “I was proud of how I was able to turn the second half of my season around.”
In the second half of Vest’s evenings he finds himself either on the football field or in the band room practicing for their competitions and Friday night performances. Vest got involved with the band also in the sixth grade when his love for music was elevated, where he now plays the drums.
Senior Drum Major and friend Cody Dickin has also found Vest’s balance of tennis and band a hard decision, but never a tarnish in their relationship.
“Owen and I have always just really connected ever since [meeting at Royerton] elementary school,” Dickin said. “One of the earliest memories I have with him was when we were in first or second grade. We said we were going to film a movie together about being train robbers.”
With tennis and band sometimes overlapping Vest is unable to attend some of the marching band’s competitions. “Since he wasn’t able to go to a bunch of our competitions I kind of took him under my wing and taught how to be a Drum Major,” Dickin said. “It was just another way we could be around each other since we aren’t able to hang as much with such busy schedules.”
Band teacher Zachary Enos has also seen Vest’s dedication and work ethic, and where that has developed him over the years.
“Owen has grown tremendously over the five years I have been here. It’s been fun to watch,” Enos said. “His sophomore year he got thrown in the deep end with the lead drum set part in jazz band and we haven’t looked back since.”
This winter the band will be performing in their annual Winter Concert, and at all home basketball games.
With all of this not only is Vest able to balance tennis matches and practices, and band practices and competitions, but he is able to maintain a 4.0 grade point average. Vest currently ranks 10th in the senior class, which is a testament to his hard work and dedication.
“I put in a lot of work, and I just try to do my best at whatever I am doing,” Vest said. “It’s cool to be able to say I have a 4.0 gpa, but I’ve earned that privilege.”
After high school Vest plans to take a year off and figure out what his options are before diving into anything.
“I’m not totally sure what I want to do yet — if I want to get a job, or what — but I’m excited for what’s to come,” Vest said.