As an eighth-grader two years ago,
watched his older brother, Harrison Lang
, capture a state tennis title.
"It was awesome," Spencer Lang said. "For him to win it at No. 1 singles, it was crazy."
Spencer, of course, was still too young to play for the Niwot
tennis team. Despite a competitively fueled sibling rivalry, he was not envious of his then-sophomore brother. He just hoped to one day achieve the same feat.
It didn't take long.
As a freshman last fall, Spencer captured his own 4A state crown, winning at No. 3 singles. Harrison finished second in No. 1 singles. Now the brothers are back, leading Niwot as dual state-crown threats with ambitions of also bringing home a team title.
"I think I'm the luckier one," Spencer said. "Being the younger brother, I get to see everything that happens two years before. Obviously, he's the better one, so it benefits me when we practice and as far as always having someone to hit with."
The brothers have a coinciding gift for the game and likely will depart high school with similarly sterling resumes. At times, onlookers can watch the nuances of their play and have no doubt that they indeed are brothers. But at other times, they are the antithesis of each other. It goes beyond the notion that Harrison has a two-handed backhand and Spencer a one-hander.
"He's a little bit more aggressive, a little more fiery out on the court," Harrison said. "I'm kind of more quiet, a little calmer and cooler, so in that respect we're opposite. But I think we're both smart players, so that's a strength we both have."
The divergence in personalities has to be an age thing, right?
"Personality-type, definitely," Harrison said. "We've always been different like that, even off the court."
Spencer admits as much, saying: "I've been the more aggressive one and he's been the one with more consistency. That's just our comfort zones when we get deep into a match. I would take more risks and he would just get the ball in and wait for his opponents to make an error."
Because of this, blood can boil when the brothers square off against each other. Niwot coach Miikka Keronen said that the brothers always root each other on — unless they're on the court at the same time.
Keronen is a teaching pro at The Ranch Country Club in Westminster and sometimes sees the sibling rivalry in full force when the brothers visit.
"It can get competitive at times, especially at practice, but off the court we're completely fine," Harrison said. "Sometimes on the court it gets a little bit heated, but that's pretty much how it goes with every sibling. But it's perfect to have someone to hit with like that all the time, so I think it benefits both of us."
Spencer also sees the occasional brother feud as a positive.
"It's pretty competitive, but I think it helps when you always have two people who are always trying to be at their best," he said. "We push each other and that's how we continue to get better."
Harrison defeated Mullen's Connor Hudson for the No. 1 singles championship in 2010 and lost the title match to Kent Denver's David Mitchell last season. He has narrowed down to about five Division I choices, including Air Force.
Spencer triumphed against Andrew Venner of Cheyenne Mountain to win the No. 3 singles crown last season and has moved up to No. 2 singles this season, replacing graduated two-time state champ Michael Ogez. Niwot finished second in the team race to Cheyenne Mountain in both 2010 and 2011.
The presence of the Langs puts Niwot firmly on the short list of contenders that includes Cheyenne Mountain (Colorado Springs)
, Kent Denver (Englewood)
, Colorado Academy (Denver)
and perhaps Mullen (Denver)
"Absolutely it's a dream to have two guys of that caliber," Keronen said. "It's pretty awesome. They play slightly different which is cool in a sense because they both have their own identity."
Even when the brother tandem is graduated, another chapter in the Lang legacy could be yet to come. Younger sister Georgia, a third-grader, already has been playing for two years and seems to have the same zest for the game as the rest of the family.
For now, though, the focus remains on Harrison and Spencer. Much of the 4A circuit will be eying the tandem, wondering if they can capture individual state titles as well as an overall championship for the Cougars.
"There are four or five good teams and we're one of them," Keronen said. "It's all about how the chips fall at state."