Kelli Ehrhardt etched her name in the Clarke girls tennis record books April 20, when she became the all-time career wins leader in school history.
Ehrhardt, a senior, surpassed the record previously set in 2000 by Kayla Utley, who went 84-41 for her career.
At press time, Ehrhardt’s career mark stands at 91-27. This year, she is 11-2 in singles and 8-1 in doubles, while the team is 9-0.
“I didn’t even know I did it at first, and then they told me and I was really excited because I was really proud of myself that I worked hard enough to set a record,” Ehrhardt said.
She isn’t satisfied with just breaking the record, however.
“Once my dad told me I was close, I really wanted to break it and keep going and set it really high for the next person,” said Ehrhardt, who didn’t even know she would have a chance at breaking until the beginning of this year.
Ehrhardt’s father, Jeff, has had double the enjoyment watching Kelli’s progress through her career, being both her father and her coach.
“As a parent, of course I’m proud,” Jeff said. “And also as a coach I’m proud to see her progression. She started at number three as a freshman, which is a ways up. Most girls start down lower. It’s really been an enjoyment to watch her play and progress here, and hopefully continue on and win another conference title and get to state. That’s one of our goals here. She just missed it last year.”
Kelli has never qualified for state in her career. Likewise, Clarke has never had a girls team make it to team state before.
Both are strong possibilities this year.
“Team state is a big goal of ours, too,” Jeff said. “Clarke has never made it to team state, and we lost in a super tie-breaker at four-all to go to state (last year), so we’re hoping this is the year we can make the team state.”
Kelli said making team state would be a big accomplishment for the Lady Indians.
“I’d be really proud of everyone on the team, because I know they’ve put in all their hard effort,” she said.
Even though Kelli has never competed at state, she knows what it takes to compete at that level, having watched her brother Jason, who she called her tennis role model, play at state.
“I’ve seen him go to state before, and he plays in college,” Kelli said. “It just makes me want to be better and follow after him.”
Jason, who now plays No. 1 doubles and No. 3 singles at Buena Vista as a sophomore, sits fourth on the Clarke boys tennis all-time career wins list, with 102 wins.
For Kelli, however, life isn’t all about tennis.
Kelli has been very involved in mission work, taking trips to Haiti and Joplin, Mo.
“My family is really involved in church, and my cousin has gone on many mission trips,” Kelli said. “I always wanted to be like her and go on them, too. I had the opportunity, so I took it.”
Going on the missions trips has really opened her eyes and changed her life, Jeff said. It was after taking her trip to Haiti that Kelli decided she wanted to be a teacher and work with kids.
“In Haiti (the best part) was just the children,” she said. “Just seeing their faces and seeing how excited they got, and we just played with them.”
Kelli will attend Simpson College next year, where she plans to continue playing tennis. But, she also plans to continue her mission work while at Simpson as well, even though she does not currently have any more mission trips planned.
“I’m planning on doing mission work up at Simpson and getting involved with volunteer work up there,” Kelli said.