BURLINGTON–Moments after Josh Mayhew finished the last match of his Cedar Ridge career, he was approached by the mother of one of his opponents.
“I just want to wish you all the best going forward,” the lady said. “My son is happy you’re graduating.”
It was the mother of A.J. Swisher of St. Stephens High School in Hickory. Mayhew has beaten Swisher each of the last two years in the 3A State Singles Tournament semifinals. This year, Mayhew won 6-0, 6-0.
In the process, he became the first player from Hillsborough to ever reach a state championship final three consecutive years.
After finishing the season 20-3, Mayhew was named the Central Carolina Conference men’s tennis player of the year last week. It’s the second straight year that Mayhew has earned the honor. Last season, Mayhew had an undefeated record during the regular season and was the top singles player for a Cedar Ridge squad that won the CCC Championship. It was the first men’s tennis conference title in school history.
“That was my favorite moment of my career,” Josh said. “Getting to see everybody feel so accomplished. It was great.”
If you’ve ever driven by the narrow highway that divides Orange High School from Orange Middle School early on a weekday morning or late in the afternoon and peered out through the trees at the tennis courts, chances are you’ve seen Mayhew. If Cedar Ridge’s courts aren’t available, he’ll simply go to Orange’s courts because it’s more convenient to his tireless schedule.
Even before this year, Mayhew had a relentless workout slate that started at 6AM, if not earlier, and concluded well into the night with pickleball matches with his father Steve, his mother and his sister, Cameron. Sometimes, the pickleball matches start the day.
This year, he added group training in Raleigh under the supervision of instructor Scott Emerson. Mayhew stood alongside football players for agility workouts and plyometrics inside Emerson’s garage.
It’s little wonder that Mayhew was named “Most Dedicated Athlete” at Cedar Ridge’s Senior Awards Night held inside Red Wolves Gymnasium last week. It’s another honor to Mayhew’s voluminous trophy case that includes the 2022 HighSchoolOT.com honor for Best Men’s Tennis Player.
Last December, Mayhew formally signed to play tennis at Belmont Abbey.
In addition to reaching three straight state championship finals, Mayhew also went to the Mideast Regional Final three straight years.
“I just couldn’t be more proud of him,” said Steve Mayhew about his son. “He’s a special talent. I’ve never coached anyone as talented as Josh nor anyone who has the work ethic that he does. As his Dad, I know what he puts in everyday. He averages 15-20 hours a week. That doesn’t include the yoga and the stretching and all that. You multiply that by 52…He’s earned everything he’s ever got because of his work.”
Nirvana’s final listed track on their 1991 classic “Nevermind” was “Something in the Way,” which has been the theme whenever Mayhew has reached the final. Or more to the point, “Someone.” As a sophomore, Chapel HIll’s Dennis Perumov defeated Mayhew in the regional and state championship finals.
The past two years, Terry Sanford’s Drew Hedgecoe denied Mayhew’s attempt to become the first Hillsborough tennis player to win a singles state championship. But it’s not indicative of the legacy that Mayhew will leave behind at Cedar Ridge as the most decorated high school tennis player in Hillsborough history.
“Drew just played crazy good,” Josh Mayhew said. “You just take it for how it is. If someone plays that good, there’s not much you can do about it. I can’t be upset about how I played. He just deserved it.”
As he moves on to Belmont Abbey following graduation next month, Mayhew doesn’t plan on reducing his workload.
“I have a lot to do. I’m not done,” Mayhew said. “I want to start for the team and see where that takes me.”