Queen of the court – Greenbrier’s Ali Rowden

By Mark Oliver

A look inside Greenbrier senior Ali Rowden’s trophy case would reveal many things: four All-Conference awards, three All-State awards and two 5A state tennis championship rings, among other honors.

To top it off, Ali’s brother, Jon Mark, has won three conference championships of his own and her sister, Gabrielle, has won a conference championship and a state championship.

Further, Ali’s father, Mark Rowden, has volunteer-coached the Greenbrier tennis teams for the past five years. Her mother, Danielle, also had success on the tennis court.

Simply put, success on the tennis court runs in the Rowden family.

"Ali and her family have been instrumental in putting Greenbrier tennis on the map," said Greenbrier Athletic Director Stephen Wood. "State championships are very hard to come by and Ali has played a major part in two of our most recent ones."

In October, Ali defeated Hot Springs Lakeside’s Megan Allen in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0, to claim the 5A state tennis championship for Greenbrier, Rowden’s second.

"It was a great, competitive match," Rowden said. "My first serve was an ace, and my cheering section went wild. After that, I settled down and was able to relax and smile a little. I had many friends and relatives come to support me and cheer me on, which was a blessing. I wanted that state championship ring so badly I could taste it."

Despite her success, however, Ali is the first to admit that winning a state championship is never easy.

"It takes years and years of practice," Rowden said. “I was out on the court almost every day for years. It takes much sweat, tears and pain, but the feeling you get when you are handed that first place trophy overcomes all of the work you had to put into it. It’s definitely worth it."

Ali has been playing tennis for seven years and attributes her inspiration to her favorite player, brother Jon Mark Rowden.

"Words can’t describe how lucky I am to have him as a brother," Rowden said. "I have never met someone that has as much heart and fight in them than my brother when on the tennis court. He is so strong mentally and he can do anything he puts his mind to. He is the reason I am who I am today, in tennis and in life."

Aside from tennis, Ali also plays basketball for Greenbrier and is an active member of Four Winds Church.

Following in the footsteps of her family, Ali committed to Harding University in Searcy, where she will continue to play tennis. "I thought it would be neat to go to a school where my brother and sister were, and be on the same tennis team as them. I wanted to be around a Christian influence. I love coach David Elliott and I want to compete for a national championship."

"Tennis will pay for my education, what more could a girl ask for?"