Wanko Makes It Official
Fresh off claiming the 3A state championship in singles tennis, Union Pines senior Neena Wanko wrapped up her storied Viking career with a purple and gold bow.
On Wednesday, Wanko signed a full athletic scholarship to attend East Carolina University in the fall, where she will be a member of the Lady Pirate tennis team.
"This feels so good," said Wanko. "I have been waiting a long time for this day. It has been a long journey, involving lots of hard work and practice to get to this point, but it was all definitely worth it, and I cannot wait till next year."
In her three years on the Union Pines team, Wanko finished with the highest winning percentage in the program's history, amassing an overall record of 109-4. Along with being the first player to claim a state singles title, she set a Union Pines girls record with six singles titles, including three Cape Fear Valley Conference championships and two regional titles.
Viking head coach John Frye has witnessed many elite tennis players come through both the Union Pines boys and girls programs and feels Wanko is truly among the most special he has seen.
"While we have had five girls win five singles titles, it took all of them four years to do so," said Frye. "For Neena to win six singles championships in just three years is an exceptional achievement and speaks volumes about her character, talent and dedication. Also, to go three years of high school play with just four losses is phenomenal, especially while winning over 100 times. That is just very tough to do."
According to Wanko, she would not be a tennis player if it were not for her parents, Tom and Danica.
"From day one they have always been there," said Wanko. "They have taken me all over the country to tournaments and workout sessions, and they provided me with such a great atmosphere, filled with support, which allowed me the greatest chance to improve and succeed."
Wanko began playing tennis back in 2000 at the age of eight. Even then, her father felt she had what it took to be a top player.
"As soon as she started playing the game Neena picked up everything at a rapid rate," he said. "She did exactly what her coaches asked and practiced real hard. She played in her first tournament within six months of taking up the sport, in a junior-novice at Methodist College. She ended up getting her first win there and the rest is history."
Neena went on to play in 141 USTA tournaments, compiling 422 career wins on the circuit.
"Division I tennis has been our goal all along, and I could not be any prouder of her for getting there," Mr. Wanko said.
It was also a fulfilling day for Mrs. Wanko and served as a fitting finish to another chapter in her daughter's career.
"I am very proud of Neena," her mother said, "because I know how hard she worked and all the sacrifices she made along the way to be able to accomplish this."
Contact F.W. Manning II at (910) 639-5481 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
More like this story