Juan Diego Navas has become the first Miami Trace student-athlete since 2010 and the first male student-athlete ever, to qualify to the State tennis tournament that begins Friday morning.
Navas hails from Bucaramanga, the seventh-largest city in Columbia, with a population of over 500,000.
Navas had the choice of coming to the United States or Canada.
“I picked America,” Navas said. “In Canada, they speak English and French.
“When I came here, I didn’t speak English,” Navas said. “I didn’t know anything about English.”
Now having lived in America with the Terry and Geri Jackson family for the past nine months or so, Navas, 17, seems to have a pretty good handle on the language.
Navas will graduate with the Miami Trace High School Class of 2017.
When he returns to Columbia, he will have a few classes remaining before he graduates from school.
“I have like a half-year of school (remaining),” Navas said.
People have been good to Navas, he said.
“They’ve been pretty good,” Navas said. “They are friendly people here at the school and around the United States. They are pretty nice.”
Navas’ favorite sport is soccer. He is also a highly-ranked tennis player in Columbia.
“I used to play every single day, three hours per day,” Navas said.
He also was involved in indoor track briefly this past winter.
“I tried wrestling, but, that was too hard for me,” Navas said.
Navas missed the high school soccer season in the fall, dislocating his knee before the Panthers’ first match.
Navas began playing tennis at the age of nine.
“We played like a team,” Navas said of his time with the Miami Trace tennis team. “That’s why we won. We won 13 and lost two.”
Navas was confident in his tennis abilities, but did not think about going to the State tournament when he came to America.
“(In Columbia) we have national tournaments and national rankings,” Navas said. “Two years ago, I was 30 in the whole country. But, then, I dislocated my knee and had to quit for two years. Both times I hurt my knee was during soccer. That’s my favorite sport.
“When I go home, I have to finish my classes and graduate,” Navas said. “I’ll play soccer with my friends.
“I want to be a doctor,” Navas said. “I’m not sure where I’m going to college yet.”
Navas will play junior Andrew Pregel of Cincinnati Indian Hill in the first round of the Division II singles tournament.
Navas (with an overall season record of 26-1) was asked what his goal was for the tournament.
“Enjoy,” he said. “Enjoy my experience here. I’ll do my best and see where I can get.”
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1