Propelled by lucky sneakers, Magrinat leading charge for Seaforth tennis


When Seaforth junior Walker Magrinat bought his neon green shoes, they were initially a joke. After wearing them once, he realized he couldn’t return them and so they stuck around — through 11 straight singles wins this season.

Now, Magrinat claims his shoes — which his teammates call “the Grinches,” since they somewhat resemble the popular Nike Kobe 6 Protro basketball shoes — have “definitely” played a role in his success.

After a loss earlier in the season to Northwood’s Jio Sumogod, Magrinat discovered a big hole in his old shoes, traded them in for the Grinches, and hasn’t lost since.

On Monday, the Seaforth boys tennis team beat Jordan-Matthews 8-1. Playing at the No. 1 spot in singles, Magrinat dominated his opponent Paul Lujan, 6-1, 6-0.

Magrinat’s calmness was on display throughout his singles match, as the junior nonchalantly bounced the ball behind his back during breaks in play, or even exchanged jokes with his teammates who sat just outside the fence surrounding Seaforth’s tennis courts. Every now and then, when the boisterous behavior of his friends became too much, he snapped back — “stop making me laugh!”

While Magrinat was in control for the majority of the match, at one point, a well-placed ball by Lujan forced Magrinat to drop-step and sprint to the back line.

He whiffed.

Without missing a beat, the junior laughed, made a joke about the wind and immediately resumed play. Later, when Lujan nearly played a ball between his legs, Magrinat called over to his opponent — “that would’ve been sick!”

This mental game has garnered respect from Magrinat’s teammates — some of them called him a “killa,” although Magrinat isn’t claiming that nickname — and praise from his coach, who considers him the “rock” of the team.

“The biggest thing that I’ve seen is he’s got much better confidence than he had last year,” Seaforth coach P.J. Petrides said. “Last year was more of a feeling-out process for him. This year, he’s back. He’s stronger. He’s been a lot more consistent.”

As a junior, Magrinat now has a solid idea of his style of play. He’s a pusher. He doesn’t go for big shots often, preferring to make the simple play and force opponents to commit errors.

“I always try to make my opponent hit the extra shot,” Magrinat said. “So if they hit a perfect shot, I’ll try to just lob it and make them hit the last volley. Sometimes when they miss, you’ll get in their head and then you sort of have the mental advantage, which is really key.”

In addition to Magrinat’s tactical approach, an area of major improvement has been his serve.

This season, with an improved hammer grip on the racket and a toss that is further in front, Magrinat is able to use his momentum to immediately rush the net and be set to return.

Junior Felton Burleigh, the No. 2 singles player for Seaforth, joked that this adjustment is something Magrinat’s picked up from him over the course of their intense battles in practice.

“Walker’s the guy I got to beat at some point, and Walker’s got to keep his spot from me — that’s his motivation,” Burleigh said to the amusement of his teammates.

Whether it’s Magrinat’s green shoes, his mental game, or the preparation from competing against Burleigh, it’s clear that the Seaforth star is in prime position for the postseason.

Magrinat’s goal is to advance to the round of eight, moving up a step from his round of 16 exit in last season’s 2A singles championships. Petrides has the bigger picture in mind — if Seaforth makes a significant push in the playoffs, they can join the ranks of successful programs like Franklin Academy, Research Triangle High School and N.C. Science & Math.

With the talent and poise of Magrinat, Seaforth may be primed to make that leap this season.