Alec Langerud enjoys puzzles. He’s an avid Rubik’s Cube problem-solver.
But as he took on a new role for the Worthington High School boys tennis team last spring, he found the challenge uniquely difficult.
Suddenly, as he stepped onto the court, he was the No. 1 singles player.
Skipping a few steps in between, he became the leading performer on a team where all the leading players from the previous season were missing. Taking into account the fact that in 2020, there was no high school tennis season at all — wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic — the WHS junior quickly learned that it’s quite a change leapfrogging to the top spot in the pecking order.
“That’s a big step, especially for me, because I went from the very bottom spot on varsity to the very top spot on varsity within two years with no season in between,” he recalled recently. “But my coaches thought I did pretty well. They thought I stuck in there, always had a smile on my face. I was giving it my all.”
In all of the three sports for which Langerud has donned the colors of the Worthington Trojans, he has performed with grace and style. In the winter, it’s hockey. In the fall, it’s cross country. In cross country, he placed consistently near the front of the pack in his junior season, including a high of second place.
“I’d like to do a lot of training (this summer),” he said, “to get better this year, and I want to break my PR (personal record) this year, 16:49.”
Summertime finds this week’s Drill subject working with young people on the tennis courts, teaching them the basics and inspiring them to enjoy the game. The blonde-haired Trojan, whose patience was displayed regularly as a member of the WHS tennis team, now shows patience with kids half his size.
Today, it’s hard to imagine these little ones — some who can barely hit the ball straight — making the kind of adjustments Langerud has already made in his tennis career. But every leap begins with a step.
This year I learned that not everything is going to go your way. You might think that you’re in a good spot because you’ve got the No. 1, but never take anything for granted. People are always gonna give it their all, you always gotta fight through. It’s a very mental game. Stay in there strong, don’t let the opponent get inside your head, don’t let yourself get in your head. Because then it’s two versus zero instead of one versus one.”
QUESTION: What do you think about when running those lengthy cross country races?
ANSWER: “I think the things that go through my mind … people can be surprised. It’s really nothing. You really can’t think of anything when you’re running. You try to think of something, and then your brain just forgets about it the next 10 seconds. It’s a weird thing to explain. I don’t know how it works.”
QUESTION: Tell us something unusual about you that some people don’t know.
ANSWER: “The most unusual thing about me that people don’t really know, I love playing with puzzles and Rubik’s Cube. I can solve a Rubik’s Cube, my best time I think is like 26 seconds. I kind of got (my friends) interested in Rubik’s Cube, so they all had their Rubik’s Cube with them, too. And they all gave ‘em to me, I had about 10 of them lined up in front of me. And I just went through them all and solved them all one by one. And it took probably about 10 minutes, but it was in a restaurant and we got video of it in time-lapse and everything.”