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May 30, 2012 09:52 AM
Ann_Walton_001_(2)After coaching the Sandia High School girls’ tennis team for 11 years, Ann Walton, 61, called it quits in mid-May. Her Matador squads went to state eight times, won four team titles and seven district championships. Several of her former players played college tennis.  Walton was a familiar figure at the state tournament, moving swiftly from court to court, paying special attention to details, quietly urging players to concentrate.
Q:  Why retirement?
A:  I want to travel with my husband, Alon Carter, for one. Plus, I have six grandchildren under the age of 3 and I want to spend more time with them. This is actually my second retirement. In 2009, I retired after 18 years of teaching, most of that in the social studies department at Sandia. 
Q: You had foot surgery this spring. How much was that a factor?
A: The foot’s much better now, but I have tendinitis in both shoulders and bursitis in both hips. I can’t get out on the court with the girls like I did. I can’t hit balls to them. Coaching is tiring. It’s almost a year-round thing these days. From February 1 to the middle of May it’s 24/7.
Q:  Your coaching career has been marked by emotional times, hasn’t it?
A:  2002 was difficult. My first husband got sick and died.  Gene was only 53. My mother died the next year.  Her middle name was Ann and she said she always wanted me to use my middle name. So, to honor her I became Ann Walton.  Up till then I had always been Nancy Walton. But that period was followed by some fun times—especially when my daughter Kelly coached the St. Pius girls and my son Ben coached the St. Pius boys. All of three of us were coaching at the same time.
Q:  You had never coached before you took the Sandia job. How did you learn what to do?
A:  Well, I had raised three teenage daughters, so that helped.  I had some great assistant coaches, most recently Ron Trevino. Early on I found the most important contribution I could make was with a girl’s mind.  For example, getting a girl to understand what to do if she got nervous.
Q:  What was your best moment coaching? 
A:  Probably when one of my girls won her first varsity match. Crystal Garcia, for instance. She been on varsity for three years but had not been in a match.  Then we played Albuquerque High. Crystal got to play singles and she won.  When it was over, she came over and hugged me. That happened many times and it was always gratifying. 
Q:  Any memories of the state tournament stand out? 
A:  Oh, our first one, against Hobbs, in 2002, for the title.  It came down to the final singles, Nina Surviladze versus Sara Baker.  Nina wondered if her match was the deciding match. I told her to just stay in your own match.  I was a brand new coach—I had to go by my instincts. I actually just told her to just blot out everything except what is happening on the court. Nina did and we won.
Q:  How much do the Sandia High courts mean to you?
A: Oh, they’re huge part of my life.  Three of my children, Amy, Kelly and Ben played tennis there.  My fourth child, Elizabeth, cheered there.  I co-coached with Kelly there and one year, when Kelly coached the Sandia boys and I coached the girls, we each won district. That was a big deal.  Gene saw me coach my first year there and the benches on the courts were dedicated to him. So, yes, the courts are memorable for me. We won 75 percent of the matches we played, and many of them on those courts.
Q:  Any regrets?
A:  No. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity I did. I loved being involved in high school sports. Now it’s time to do something else.
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