Teen athlete: Ryan Aturaliya

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Spring sports often get the short end when it comes to the length of their season. The unpredictable weather patterns of Duluth can keep snow on the field or court through April. For boys' tennis, this poses a serious problem and often leaves the team with low numbers and few players who are dedicated year-round. However, Ryan Aturaliya, a junior at East High School, keeps his game going all year.

Aturaliya has played tennis since he was four. In the summer he plays for the Longview Tennis Club. He has played varsity tennis for East since he was a freshman.

"Tennis has always been a great way for me to blow off steam and get away," Aturaliya said.

This year, Aturaliya became captain of the varsity team. Henri LaLiberte, a junior at East, has played tennis at Longview with Aturaliya since fifth grade. He has also been on the East varsity team with Aturaliya since their freshman year.

"Ryan is an extremely dedicated captain," LaLiberte said. "He's quick on his feet and has awesome technique, but most of all he has a really solid mental game. You would never know how he's playing based on his attitude. He's always upbeat and that's a super-important trait for a tennis captain and a leader."

It's still early in the season, but Aturaliya has been taking his captain's duties seriously.

"I scheduled captain's practices, picked out uniforms and sweats and got the information to everyone that was interested in playing," Aturaliya. "Coach always asks the captain's opinions on things, so I like to be part of the decisions within the team. Also, if kids aren't comfortable going to the coach with something, they can come to me and tell me things to tell coach."

Tony Rich, another junior, is a teammate of Aturaliya and LaLiberte at East as well. He has played at Longview with Aturaliya since second grade.

"His dedication to the sport is beyond all others," Rich said. "He eat, sleeps and breathes tennis. More than half the texts from Ryan are, 'You want to go hit?' When I'm at Ryan's house, we're usually watching tennis. He goes on vacation to play tennis. Playing with him is different every match. He studies the pros and changes his play style all the time."

Aturaliya spends time at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., an exclusive training institute for young athletes. He recently spent his spring break there preparing for the season.

"I come down to Florida and love to play on the clay courts," Aturaliya said. "I play at IMG Academy, which is a huge athletic academy that recruits kids from around the world."

Aturaliya has big goals for his upcoming season and third year on the varsity team.

"My goals for this year are to take the East team to state and to go to state individually," he said. "I want to play a lot of tournaments this summer."

Solveig Rennan is a junior at East High School and interned for the Budgeteer in 2014. If you have an idea for a teen athlete profile, email budgeteer@duluthbudgeteer.com.