South alumnus Sanchez wins prestigious tennis award

Former Harlingen South and current St. Mary's University graduate student tennis player Jeremiah Sanchez was named the national ITA Division II Men's Arthur Ashe Leadership & Scholarship Award winner in May. Courtesy Photo/Antonio Morano Photography

HARLINGEN — Jeremiah Sanchez has been playing tennis since he was 8 years old, and the career he has put together is illustrious.

Sanchez was a four-time state qualifier while competing at Harlingen South, where he racked up district and regional championships. He went on to compete at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio in singles and doubles, and the success kept coming.

Sanchez is a two-time International Tennis Association All-American, and was the ITA South Central Region rookie of the year as a freshman in 2017 and men’s tennis player to watch in 2018. That same year, he was named the Heartland Conference men’s tennis player of the year. He’s a three-time All-Heartland Conference first-team honoree and ITA Scholar-Athlete, and boasts a Rattlers career record of 110-49.

In May, Sanchez made arguably the biggest addition to his resume as he was named the ITA Division II Men’s Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship award winner. He won the same honor in the South Central region, and was up against seven other regional winners for the national award.

“It really meant a lot. It’s a huge accomplishment, probably my biggest accomplishment yet,” Sanchez said. “(Arthur Ashe is) such an influential person in tennis and in the world, so it’s just a huge accomplishment that I’m considered in the category to even earn this prestigious award amongst other amazing players. I was very surprised I was even selected for the regional awards, and to win the national, that was amazing.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanchez found out he won while watching a live stream of the national award announcements. He said “it didn’t feel real” when he was announced as the winner, and he later received a personalized video from the ITA committee featuring tennis icon Billie Jean King congratulating him on the achievement.

The award and all that came with it helped Sanchez find solace after his senior season was cut short due to the coronavirus.

“The last match that I played was probably my best all year, so to have to end on that was a big letdown,” Sanchez said. “But being able to get this award made the year kind of feel worth it again, because there was a while I was pretty down. You’re a senior, you want to finish off the year, and I didn’t think I was going to get another opportunity.”

But Sanchez is getting that opportunity. The NCAA made some accommodations for seniors because of COVID-19, so he’ll be playing one final season at St. Mary’s next year. He graduated with honors in May and is now pursuing his master’s in business administration and working in the athletic department as a digital media marketing graduate assistant.

Additionally, Sanchez serves as the Rattlers team captain and is as strong of a leader as he is a competitor. He’s heavily involved in improving the community, volunteering at the San Antonio food bank and children’s shelter, and participating in St. Mary’s “Continuing the Heritage” event. Sanchez aims to impact his teammates and community while dominating on the court, which contributed to his selection for the Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship award.

“Probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned from tennis, if you want to be successful, if you want to be a passionate leader, you have to have hard work and dedication,” Sanchez said. “Playing on a team for all these years has helped me realize that you’re not alone and it’s not just you. You have a team to look out for and that will look out for you. Tennis has so much more meaning behind it if you help others succeed than if it’s just you worrying about yourself.”