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Auburn’s Russell Jilot, 54, is proving he’s one of state’s top tennis players in his age group
By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
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Russell Jilot knows he’s one of the top senior tennis players in the state. Next weekend, he’ll set out to prove it. Jilot has established himself as one of the top players overall in the ultra-competitive 5.0 division, often facing competitors nearly half his age. “I’m phasing out the 5.0 tournaments,” Jilot said. “Most of the people I’m playing are much younger and I’m giving up an average of about 30 years.” Jilot will test himself at next weekend’s California State Senior Tennis Championships in Burlingame, where the 54-year-old will take on the top competition in his age range. Jilot picked up tennis as a junior in high school in Colorado and ascended to a high level almost immediately. He played college tennis at Montana State and Colorado State. Following his college career, he played just once a week, looking to stay in shape and keep his skills tuned up. A move to Auburn nine years ago led him to join Auburn Racquet Club, where his competitive tennis ambitions were revived. “I basically joined the club so that my daughters would have a place to swim and I ended up using it more for tennis,” Jilot said. “I met a couple of guys who became really good friends — Paul Phillips and David Huskey — and now I play three or four times a week.” Phillips, who coaches tennis at Colfax High, and Huskey have stopped playing competitive tournaments for the most part, but Jilot is still enjoying the game he began playing nearly 40 years ago. “I really just enjoy playing with friends,” said Jilot, who works an industrial engineering consultant. “I play the tournaments just to get an adrenaline rush once in a while.” Jilot said his biggest tournament victories to date came at the National Indian Tennis Championships. His mother is Chippewa and he played in the event for nearly two decades straight, winning seven titles. “Those were big because of my culture,” Jilot said.