0

With heavy hearts, SGA’s Grimsley, Lowe repeat as state champs, make history

SGA tennis stars Adam Lowe, left, and teammate Billy Grimsley dedicated their doubles state title to Lowe’s cousin, 15-year-old Nathan Toal, who died last month during an accident in his backyard.

SGA tennis stars Adam Lowe, left, and teammate Billy Grimsley dedicated their doubles state title to Lowe’s cousin, 15-year-old Nathan Toal, who died last month during an accident in his backyard.

MACON — Adam Lowe and Billy Grimsley have shared pain, grief and tears during the past month.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Southwest Georgia Academy seniors shared an embrace after winning their second straight GISA Class AA doubles championship.

Neither spoke during the moment that marked the culmination of the last three weeks during which they dealt with the death of Lowe’s 15-year-old cousin, Nathan Toal. And then dedicated their run in the state tournament to him.

In that brief moment after winning the championship match in straight sets Tuesday, they were silent, sharing the moment with Toal.

“No words were spoken,” Grimsley said. “We knew what each other was thinking.”

Toal, who was close to both Lowe and Grimsely, was riding in his Jeep behind his house March 26 when he had a fatal accident — one that brought everything into perspective for the tennis players.

The pain, the tears, the memories — they all entered Lowe’s mind as he hugged Grimsley.

“It was emotional,” Lowe said. “We embraced each other like brothers would. We knew that this was what we had fought for all of these years. All the hard work had paid off. It was just special because of what happened to Nathan.”

Toal’s death was on Lowe’s mind each time he stepped on the court this season, starting with his first match after the accident when he wrote Toal’s initials on the court in chalk and then said a prayer over them. The duo also had Toal’s initials embroidered on their 2011 state title shirts, which they wore in Tuesday’s championship match, which they won, 6-4, 6-4, against Christian Heritage.

Lowe and Grimsley, who played singles in the regular season, went 8-0 as a doubles team and felt relieved after ending their season on top for the second year in a row.

“We had a target on our backs going in as the defending state champions,” said Lowe, who added that he and Grimsley complement each other well on the court with solid net games, consistent ground strokes and never-quit attitudes. “It felt like an enormous weight was lifted off our shoulders when we won.”

They won their semifinal match earlier on Tuesday, 6-2, 6-4, against the same doubles team from Heritage that they beat in last year’s semifinal match.

In the end, they became the first tennis players in SGA history to win back-to-back state titles — an honor that Grimsley wouldn’t want to share with anyone else.

“It feels good closing out my senior year with a state championship and to be able to share it with my friend,” Grimsley said.

It was a title they also shared with Toal.

“He was a kid with a big heart, a big warrior,” Lowe said. “We dedicated this to him.”