Busy freshman all-business balancing academics, lifting and tennis

Sept. 16, 2013

Crystal Chilcott
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Like many freshmen, Howie Hill arrived at UCCS to take on a full course load for his nursing degree.  However, Hill also arrived as Colorado’s eighth-ranked tennis player and the national deadlift champion.

His top-eight statewide ranking is out of 180 tennis players, and he also is ranked 14th in a six-state region of 700 players. But Hill didn’t start out in tennis until age 13.

“My favorite sport was football, but my dad wouldn’t let me play because he thought I would get hurt,” Hill said. “My brother isn’t as athletically inclined, but tennis was his favorite sport so I tried it.”

Hill competes in level-three and level-two tournaments, usually the former. The highest tier in tennis is level one, which includes the top 32 players nationally. He is among the top 400-500 nationally.

Hill would ultimately like to compete in one of the world’s four major tournaments: the U.S. Open, French Open, Wimbledon or the Australian Open.

He spends 15 hours on the tennis court weekly, training by himself or with his coach Mark Bishop. Twenty to 25 weekends yearly are devoted to his tournaments. He also spends 10 hours coaching at the Colorado Springs Cross Country Club and five hours training in powerlifting.

“I’m not able to mess around much and there’s not time for much social stuff. It’s pretty busy, I just have to do it and not think about doing it,” Hill said.

UCCS is located between his home and court, 10 minutes away from each. He is flexible with his training, fitting it in when he has time.

He was offered several tennis scholarships, including half tuition to Division I schools and full or near-full rides to Division II schools.

Though UCCS does not have a tennis program, Hill decided to attend to save on living expenses. He pays in-state tuition and would like to transfer in the next year or two to San Diego State University or San Diego University.

“I really like that area. I’ve vacationed there almost every year since I was 4,” Hill said.

Beyond his tennis achievements, Hill is also accomplished in lifting.

“I’m actually more successful at that than tennis,” he said.

Last December, he set the Colorado State Deadlift record on his way to a national title. He also won the Colorado State Powerlifting title. He competed in the 16 through 17-year-old 198-pound class. At 15, he took up the sport because of his dad.

“My home has 26 plates, four bars, a squat rack. We have like a whole gym,” Hill said. In addition to his in-home workouts, he is trained by Ron Garofalo, who is a 20-time world record holder in powerlifting.

In tennis, Hill will next compete in a tournament at the Flying Horse Ranch as the No. 1 seed. His next national is Nov. 10 in Las Vegas.