Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | May 25, 2017

Sibling tennis stars to represent Iowa

By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | May 15, 2017
Photo by: submitted Lachlan Gaskell, 9, and his 14-year-old sister, Yana, will represent Iowa at the United States Tennis Association Missouri Valley Team Event May 27-29 in Oklahoma City. The siblings will play against other top players from Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

It wasn’t long ago that Fairfield resident Mark Gaskell enrolled his children in private tennis lessons. Admitting that he thought it might be a fun sport for his kids to learn, he never could have imagined what would happen next.

He said he wouldn’t have guessed that both of his children, 9-year-old Lachlan and 14-year-old Yana would qualify to play No. 1 at the United States Tennis Association Missouri Valley Team event May 27-29 in Oklahoma City, where they will be representing Iowa.

The two qualified for spots at the USTA Iowa Team Event Qualifier in Des Moines April 29-30, and will play against top youth from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Although Yana initially came in second place during the USTA Iowa qualifier in Des Moines in April,  she moved into the No. 1 spot after the winner found that she wouldn’t be able to attend the tournament in Oklahoma.

“Funny enough she was actually a little bit disappointed in some ways because it means that she has to play that very top player in each of those states,” Mark said with a laugh. “But she’ll rise to the occasion, she loves playing competitive sports.”

Yana, who is an eighth grader at Fairfield Middle School, is not only adept at tennis, she’s also an accomplished runner. She recently won the 1,500-meter race during the middle school Mike Henderson state track finals last week in Ankeny.

As for Lachlan, who has been competing against 12-year-old tennis players for some time now, Mark said his win was very hard earned.

“Lachlan won the very, very top spot, but he earned that spot and he beat, in my opinion, the top three players; it was very competitive and he absolutely deserved that win; the exciting thing for Lachlan is that he did it when he was 9,” Gaskell said. “They both really like tennis, but I think [Lachlan] is very passionate about it, and that’s why he’s done so well. Yana is a very good runner as well, and she divides her time into both sports.”

Both Lachlan and Yana started playing tennis around four years ago under local tennis coach Steve Briggs.

“Lachlan and Yana are very athletic,” Briggs said. “I was impressed at how easy the game came for [Lachlan]. He just picked up the racket, and it seemed like it was an extension of his arm. He’s one of those kids that you say, ‘He’s got an extra level of talent and coordination.’ Yana’s accomplishments are very much on the same level. She’s won several tournaments.”

Briggs said Lachlan had won at least five “12 and under” tournaments.

“He’s about to graduate into playing the 14-year-olds,” Briggs said. “He’s too young to try to play 12 year olds at the national level, but he’s improving really fast.”

Lachlan is No. 1 in Iowa for his age group, while Yana ranks around No. 2 or 3 for hers.

Gaskell said Lachlan ranks No. 30 in the nation for fourth graders on the website www.tennisrecruiting.net.

“He’s definetly the best fourth grader within the region for his age,” Gaskell said.

Both Lachlan and Yana have big plans for the future.

“I would like to turn pro,” Lachlan said, explaining that he still had several years to build up his ranking. “I’m trying to go pro by 16, but if that doesn’t work, then I’ll go to college, but I’ll be hoping for a scholarship. I might become a doctor.”

“For tennis, you always look at the pros. I like Serena [Williams] because she’s a very powerful woman, and she shows that women can do it. She won the Australian Open when she was pregnant,” Yana said. “All of the pros these days are hitting it so much harder.

“I’m looking into playing tennis at a top college. I think if I was going to go local, I would go with the Hawkeyes. They have a pretty good team or I’d go with any college in California. I’m looking at the behavior sciences like psychology, but I’m also into math.”

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