URBANA – Katarina Marjanovic has cried for competition. She's bled for it. She's pulled her hair in frustration for it. She's better because of it.
Marjanovic, the Urbana High School tennis standout, once outlasted everyone in a situps contest at a tennis camp run by tennis instructor Mark Voss, including a couple of young professionals.
It seems everyone was pitted in a who-can-do-more Iron-V's, a situp with your feet raised high in the air. Marjanovic, 11 or 12 at the time, impressed everyone by winning.
"She was crying when it was over," said Voss, who coaches Marjanovic year round. "It was hurting her so much she was crying but it was too important to her to quit. She just would not quit."
And that, in a sentence, explains why Marjanovic, The News-Gazette's girls' tennis Player of the Year for the second year in a row after finishing with a 26-3 record for the Tigers, including three wins at the state tournament, is so good. Whether it's a particularly difficult opus on her piano, a wicked bariolage on her violin or the conquering of a tendency to lose concentration on the tennis court,
Marjanovic figures out a way to get things done.
"One of our goals this season was to improve her focus, and she was excellent this year," Urbana coach Melissa Welch said. "She matured so much from last year.
Things that would really get her down, she didn't let that bother her this year. She grew up a lot."
It was just another obstacle in the way of an especially driven young person.
"I can't recall how many times I've tanked in a match but it's probably as many as I've risen up to another level," Marjanovic said. "And that's not good enough. It was important for me to start getting past that. Before this year, I'd get frustrated and either hit it out and totally lose to myself, or it would take me a while to get it back together. That really didn't happen this year."
Voss thinks that is a huge step for a player with a game to match her drive.
"Once she goes to college and begins playing good players day in and day out, she'll realize even more how good she is and can be," Voss said. "She has such a big game, she's just beginning to realize it."
And with another year of seasoning coming, the 5-foot-9 junior, who lost her first match of the season before rattling off 23 wins in a row, including a streak during Big 12 Conference and sectional play where she didn't drop a set, might be able to put to rest the questions she hears from classmates.
"Most people are like, 'so when are you going to win state?' " she said. "I'm like, 'It's not that easy.' There are a lot of girls who are really good players trying to do the same thing."
Still, the blood, sweat and tears given through all the work, are finally being caught by the mental connections and corralling of emotions. Just more in the maturation process of top-notch athlete, who will likely be so much more when all is said and done.
"I've learned a lot of lessons from playing tennis," Marjanovic said. "I deal with regret much better and I've really learned to live in the present instead of dwelling on something that's already happened. I've given a lot to tennis, but it's given a lot back."
The Katarina Marjanovic file
Favorite athlete: Jelena Jankovic
Favorite movie: "Iron Man"
Favorite TV show: "Friends"
Favorite musician: The Killers
Favorite food: Any Italian
Dream job: Natural-born billionaire
Three people I'd like to have dinner with: Michalangelo, Marie Curie, Nikola Tesla
An alphabetical look at the Girls' Tennis Player of the Year honorable mention list:
Alana Downie Urbana Sr.
Alex Foster Watseka Jr.
Melissa Fuesting Danville Jr.
Lori Haas Bismarck-Henning Fr.
Christine Janesky Danville Sr.
Alexis Julian (right) Danville Sr.
MaryKate Krouse Centennial Sr.
Lisa LeCleir Danville Sr.
Shelby Mammano Centennial Sr.
Megan Mast Centennial Sr.
Maria Mears Centennial So.
Sophie Miller Centennial Fr.
Megan Suchoff Centennial Sr.
Kori Yergler Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Sr.
Girls' tennis Players of the Year
2008 Katarina Marjanovic (right) Urbana
2007 Katarina Marjanovic Urbana
2006 Lindsey Hallett Central
2005 Lindsey Hallett Central
2004 Kenisha Webb Urbana