Cowan earns bronze on national stage
Susan Cowan describes her trip to play tennis at the recent National Senior Games held in Birmingham, Ala., as an exciting experience.
Deservedly so, because the 63-years-young Carson Valley athlete won the bronze medal in her women’s singles 60-64 tennis age group at the Senior Games on June 8-11. Cowan nearly had a shot at playing for the gold as her only loss in four matches came against a nationally ranked opponent at the Samford University Tennis Complex.
Cowan, seeded No. 8 out of 32 qualifiers for her age group, won two straight matches before dropping a third-set tie-breaker in the semifinals against top-seeded Deborah Burgess from Franklin, Wis. She then won the third-place match by injury default.
Not bad considering it was her first trip to the National Senior Games, a biennial multi-sport event for athletes 50 years of age on up into their 90s competed that celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.
“It was a fantastic experience and a good learning experience,” Cowan said. “The fitness level of the athletes is really amazing. And I had never been there (Birmingham) before, but it was gorgeous. All of the venues were absolutely beautiful.”
Cowan lost a closely contested semifinal against Burgess 6-2, 5-7, 10-8, in a 10-point tie-breaker went back and forth. Cowan fell into an early 3-0 deficit before she rallied back to take a 7-5 lead. The score was even at 8-all before Burgess finished with two unanswered points.
“I was so tired,” Cowan said. “I was sort of on auto pilot and then, all of a sudden, I made a couple of bad shots and I was out of it.”
Burgess is currently ranked No. 10 in the nation for women 60-64 by the U.S. Tennis Association, according to Cowan.
“She has a lot of experience playing in national tournaments,” Cowan said of Burgess. “She’s agile and very consistent, she can hit an overhead winner from anywhere on the court and she has a very wicked drop shot.”
Cowan drew a first-round bye then dispatched Ann Henderson of Keene, N.H., in an indoor match, 6-2, 6-2, followed by a 6-2, 6-0 win against Virginia Adams of Las Vegas.
The third round match was actually a rematch because Cowan defeated Adams last September in the Nevada State Senior Olympics women’s 60-64 age group final at the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas. That tournament served as a qualifier for the National Senior Games.
Don’t expect her to stop playing anytime soon, either. Cowan is already preparing for a return to the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque, N.M., and in the meantime, she is considering playing in more national-level tournaments.
“I look at it as something exciting to do, and it gives you something to strive for,” Cowan said, adding credit to her husband, Mike Cowan. “Mike comes out to watch me play and support me. He has a pretty good eye, too; he sees things I’m doing during a match and then we talk about it afterward.”
Of note: Cowan played at State University of New York at New Paltz and was head coach of the Douglas High School girls tennis team in 2012-13. Burgess was inducted into the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993 as a three-year letter winner in tennis and basketball. … Polly Edwards of Easton, Conn., the No. 2 seed, eventually defeated Burgess in the final, 6-4, 7-5.