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It worked for the 12s and the 14s, and now it appears it worked for the 16s . . . The USTA Boys' and Girls' 16 Zone Team Championships.

The event gave some of the country's top junior players the opportunity to play a lot of tennis, learn more about the game than just how to hit the ball and make friends.It brought together 160 of the best junior players in the western part of the country for five tough days of schooling and tennis competition.

Coincidently, there were 16 Utah players invited to participate. They were among the 40 invited from the Intermountain Division. The format was that teams, comprised of five players each, played other teams - five singles, four doubles matches.

According to Clark Barton, one of the Intermountain coaches, there are a number of benefits to this type of format. One, each player knew he or she would play nine matches and each knew he or she would play good, tough players.

"It lessened the pressure because it didn't matter if you won or lost, you knew you were going to play the next day. Also, each player on the team was seeded, so each player played players at his or her level, so for the most part matches were pretty tough," he notes.

In the girls' competition, the No. 1 and 2 teams were from Northern California. Two of the Intermountain teams tied for third with 4-1 records. The other two teams followed with 3-2 records. Overall the four girls' teams went 14-6, which Barton graded as "excellent."

The four boys' teams finished with an 8-12 records, which Barton said was also good, "when you consider the caliber of players here."

Among the Utah players, Megan Payne of St. George, finished with a perfect 9-0 record playing at No. 1 for her team. In her final match she beat Courtney Perkins, 6-3, 6-3, of the Pacific NorthWest team.

Shari Smith of Salt Lake City, the only Utahn on the Intermountain A team, also had a good tournament. She lost her opening match, then went on to win the next eight. On Thursday, she beat Kristy Yamanoto of Hawaii, 6-1, 6-2.

Kim Kelly, also from Salt Lake, finished with a 3-2 record in singles playing at No. 1. Her two loses came at the hands of nationally ranked players. On Thursday, she beat Zahra Ahamed of the Pacific NorthWest, 7-6, 6-2.

Matt Stohl of Salt Lake City, who was moved up to play No. 1 singles on Thursday, beat the No. 1 player from Southern California, Ryan Moore, 6-4, 6-4.

Jordan Butler of Bountiful, another of Utah's top players, went 2-2 in singles playing at No. 1.

Other top juniors from Utah for the boys were Jonathan Birch, Peter Bubik, Ben Gardner, Ryan Hatch, Nicolas Losee, Kevin Zenger, Don Williams and Brandan Greenwood.

For the girls there were Liz Jones, Heidi Thomas and Loni Kuhn.

According to Barton, the Zone tournament in the 12 division has been played for five years and the 14 division for four years.

"They just decided that if the zone tournaments worked for those age groups, then it should work for the 16s," he said.

The tournament, directed by Linda Vincent and sponsored by Franklin Quest, also put the player in a classroom to learn about such things as diet, fitness and balancing tennis with academics.

"We bid for it and got it here in Utah for the first year. We're going to try and get it back here next year. It went so well this year it wouldn't surprise me if we got it again next year," he offered.