May 16—Manhattan senior Dan Harkin walked toward the net at Court 9 and raised a single, solemn fist.
Harkin didn't yelp after becoming the first Manhattan boy to win a state title since Michael Center in 1982. He didn't pound his chest or drop to his knees, either.
Just the fist and a half smile, and he only offered that small glimpse into his psyche because he sealed his 6-4, 6-2 win in Saturday's championship match with an ace.
At match point, Harkin's overpowering serve pinged the chain link fence at Harmon Park before Shawnee Mission East's Graham Faris could reach it. Then Harkin (31-1) flashed his right fist before embarking upon the hugs and handshakes tour: First Faris (30-5), then family members, teammates and the rivals whose respect he's commanded all season.
Throughout the celebration, Harkin's thank yous never raised an octave above his standard monotone. In four years at Manhattan, he's never allowed setting to influence his emotions.
He wasn't about to start during his last match.
"I'd feel stupid screaming," Harkin said. "I don't really think about what I'm going to do after a match. I was focused on the serve."
Harkin's understated persona served him well during his run through the talent-laden 6A singles bracket. Despite losing more games in two days at state (24) than he had in his previous 16 matches (23), Harkin claimed the championship he's been chasing his entire career. He proved his steely nerve by flipping the momentum during his final match.
Trailing 40-0 during the 10th game of the first set (he led 5-4), Harkin scored the next five points to win the set. He won the first three games of the second, too. And Faris, who played so steadily through the first nine games, wobbled for too long after Harkin's comeback.
Each time Faris appeared to find his balance, Harkin countered with a shot that left a grimace on Faris's face. Harkin hit several backhand winners in the final, including a clutch two-hander up the near sideline on the second-to-last point.
Faris, who rolled his eyes after watching the ball whizz past his back shoulder, muttered his frustration with Harkin's precision after the play.
"Come on, dude."
"I had a little more confidence, and he got a little deflated," Harkin said. "He still fought later on in the match, but I had a pretty good lead."
The Indians followed Harkin's lead and finished third as a team with 25 points. Blue Valley-Northwest finished two points ahead of them in second, and Shawnee Mission East finished first with 47 points. The Lancers' Blake Eason and Hudson Mosher (32-0) won the state doubles title.
Manhattan's Kelton Poole and Luke Craft finished ninth in the doubles bracket. The Indians No. 1 duo finished four spots higher than they did in 2019 despite losing their first match on both Friday and Saturday.
Craft, a senior, attributed his and Poole's resilience to their improved chemistry.
"We talk more in between points," Craft said. "We pick each other up. I think overall, we're just a lot more consistent."
Craft, along with fellow seniors Harkin, Jon Grove and Dil Ranaweera, have set a high standard for the 2022 Indians, led by returners Poole and Jackson Ivester. Manhattan head coach Tony Ingram called Grove and Ranaweera "great leaders" who improved drastically since he first saw them play at Eisenhower Middle School.
Ingram said Craft will "benefit greatly" from playing against college competition next season. Craft will join Harkin at Kansas Wesleyan next fall, continuing their longtime teammate streak.
Playing alongside Harkin, who planned to run 10-12 miles Saturday night in preparation for Thursday's regional track meet (he's the defending state champion at 3200 meters), has taught Craft a lot about work ethic. But over the last four years, Harkin's also taught Craft a lot about poker faces.
Harkin rarely snaps from his competitive trance, Craft said. So when he does, the Indians take note.
Every reaction conveys strong emotion — even a subdued fist.
"That's actually a lot from him," Craft said. "He never really gets over excited, but he also never gets frustrated. It works for him."