If Bellevue West senior Sam Hidalgo isn't hitting a tennis ball, she's hitting the vibes.
Or studying to keep up her 5.36 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale, working part time or even traveling to Chicago to drill with the Phantom Regiment, a marching drum corps.
“I'm a very busy person,” she said.
Hidalgo plays the vibraphone for the Thunderbirds marching band, which has won state the past three years. It's like a giant metallic xylophone played with mallets, Hidalgo said.
It's an instrument that takes hours of practice, trying to hit every note just the right way and at the right volume for nine minutes.
That's why Hidalgo uses tennis to unwind.
“I really like the challenge of hitting every ball with a purpose and striking every note with a purpose,” she said.
Each spring, Hidalgo cuts her vibes practice from five hours to two or three hours a day. She trims her work schedule to the weekends.
Tennis, which she began playing in junior high, becomes one of the high points of her schedule.
“It's one of those things that when you exercise and you do well at something, it just relieves all your stresses of the day,” Hidalgo said. “I really enjoy playing just for the fun of it.”
Hidalgo plays No. 1 singles and teams with Katie Imig at No. 1 doubles. She's 1-1 in both this spring. Last year, Hidalgo made it through the first round at state in No. 1 doubles with partner Christine Hegarty.
Hidalgo doesn't have time to practice year-round like many of the top players in the state, so she has to try to outsmart them.
“I like having to create plays, think through points and beat my opponent through that mental aspect because I'm not so physically equipped for it,” she said.
As Bellevue West's lone senior, coach Chad Bartlett said she's a great leader and role model, as well as a coach on the court.
That's come in handy for the Thunderbirds.
“We are going to win some matches that we aren't expected to, and this team has the talent to do some damage at Metro,” Bartlett said.
After tennis season and graduation is over, the real work begins for Hidalgo.
She'll spend the summer touring with the Phantom Regiment, which ranks third in the country in marching music's major league. That involves up to 10 hours of rehearsal every day, with a concert in a different city almost every other day. The season ends with the Drum Corps International world championships at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
She auditioned five times, for three corps, before she made the Phantoms.
“It's going to be a great experience, and I'm going to learn a lot from it,” she said.
When the summer is done, Hidalgo will start college at Nebraska, where she's earned a regent's scholarship. She plans to play intramural tennis and continue her music, but earning a degree in electrical engineering will be her focus.
“I was really torn between music and engineering,” she said. “I just love math and science.”
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