It was a symbolic gesture and the culmination of an eventful and sometimes grueling junior year for Burroughs High’s Sawyer Patterson.
“It was really funny for me on the last day of school this past year,” said Patterson, a standout boys’ tennis player for the Indians. “When I got home I took my backpack and I just threw it in the trash. I just said ‘I’m done.’ I didn’t want to have to deal with school for awhile.”
Patterson, a singles player for Burroughs, spent a big chunk of his time this past school year on the tennis court. If he wasn’t competing for the Indians, he was taking part in junior tournaments or training with his personal coach at Cal State Northridge to improve his skills. But tennis only took up a portion of Patterson’s time.
He also endured a heavy workload at school, which included several Advanced Placement classes during a junior year in which he finished with a 4.0 grade-point average.
“Academics are definitely very important to me,” Patterson said. “Your junior year is so important when it comes to getting into college. A lot of times I would have to study well into the morning to get everything done that I had to do.”
If that wasn’t enough, Patterson also made time for something he cherishes as much as tennis — acting. He is a member of the award-winning Burroughs drama department and has had leading or substantial roles in productions like “Our Town,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Up the Down Staircase” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Often Patterson would have to rush from a tennis match or practice to make a theatre production with little time to spare.
“It was really crazy for me at times this past year,” said Patterson, who among his credits is playing Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” and George Gibbs in “Our Town.” “With tennis, AP testing and theatre, it would get hectic sometimes and I just didn’t seem to have enough hours in the day.
“The day of the CIF Individuals tennis tournament, I had to play in that, I had three AP tests to take and “Our Town” opened. That’s how it was sometimes for me.”
As well as finding success in tennis, Patterson has been recognized for his acting ability. In July, Patterson was selected as a finalist at the Jerry Herman High School Musical Theatre Awards of Los Angeles and was honored with a vocal solo on stage at the Pantages Theater.
“To get to sing on the stage at the Pantages Theater is just amazing,” said Patterson, who began acting in commercials at age 3.
Burroughs Coach Roy Bernhardt has been able to witness both of Patterson’s talents as an athlete as well as a thespian.
“He is a very good actor and he does a real good job on stage,” Bernhardt said. “I saw him in ‘Our Town’ and he had the lead role and he was great. I also saw him in the Shakespeare play and with the talking that they did he was really the only one I could understand.
“Sawyer is just a very busy guy, but he finds time to do all the things that he wants and he’s good at all of them as well.”
Along with his acting and academic obligations, Patterson found time for tennis and he excelled. He captured his second straight Pacific League singles championship and was undefeated during the regular season — all doing so on a Burroughs team that failed to reach the playoffs despite being the defending league champion. In addition, Patterson advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Individual Tournament.
It is because of his accomplishments that Patterson has been named the 2014 All-Area Boys' Singles Player of the Year, as voted by the sportswriters of the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun.
Interestingly, Patterson first began playing tennis about the same time he started acting.
“I was a real rambunctious kid and tennis was about the only sport my parents could put me in at that age,” Patterson said. “I really got interested in the sport at about 6 and I started playing in tournaments at 7; that’s when I started to be competitive.
“I’ve always liked tennis compared to other sports because in tennis you get to play the entire time. With tennis you’re always in the action no matter what and you don’t have to wait your turn to play like some other sports. I like to be able to be out there and play all the time.”
As a sophomore in 2013, Patterson played behind Burroughs’ No. 1 singles player Garrett Auproux. However, when Auproux suffered an injury, Patterson was thrust into the No. 1 position. He made the most of his opportunity, winning the Pacific League singles title.
This season, Patterson said it was a definite goal of his to repeat as singles champion. He was able to stay focused on his goal even though the Indians struggled at times and not only didn’t repeat at league champs, but didn’t even qualify for the postseason.
“Heading into the season that was something that I did want to accomplish,” Patterson said. “Winning it for a second straight time is what I really was striving for. Also, I wanted to do that so I could get to CIF competition.
“As far as the team, I just tried to go out and do the best I could every time on the court. The team really worked hard this season and the guys did the best that they could. I just told the guys to play hard every point.”
In the league finals, Patterson, the No. 1 seed, overcame some early uneven play to defeat No. 2 Emile Ohanyan of Hoover, 6-2, 6-1. In the matches leading up to the final, Patterson was dominating, dropping just two games in three sets.
Patterson's win is the latest in a long line of Burroughs singles champions, as Indians have won the last five league titles.
“He is not only a good player but he also helped to motivate us,” Burroughs No. 1 doubles player Alex Park said. “He would gather the team together before a match and give us a speech and kind of encourage us and motivate us. He is a very confident player and he has a lot of skills. I think most of the players on the team look up to him.”
Patterson went through the entire regular season without dropping a set. He advanced to the CIF Southern Section Individual Tournament at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center in South El Monte with high expectations.
In the first round, Patterson breezed to a victory, easily disposing of Tommy Tin of Rosemead out of the Mission Valley League, 6-0, 6-0. But in the second round against junior Sam Kang from Warren, the two-time defending champion of the San Gabriel Valley League, Patterson was defeated, 6-3, 7-5.
“That was definitely disappointing,” Patterson said.
With time to decompress during the summer, Patterson said he looks forward to what his senior year will bring. Along with the hopes of winning a third Pacific League singles crown, the athlete also hopes to rebound and advance further in CIF competition. He also plans to continue acting.
“I’m really looking to do well next year,” he said. “And with school I know I won’t be taking the kind of workload that I had this past year, which is nice. Hey, but I’ve learned how to balance things pretty well and I know I can handle everything that comes my way.”
Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.