First, there was Allison, followed by Jeff, Kelly and Dan. All the Miles children followed Allison’s lead and joined the Winthrop High School tennis team.

“I was this close to choosing track,” Allison said, holding her thumb and index finger as close as one can without them touching.

If Allison had chosen track spikes over tennis shoes, then we wouldn’t be here, at the Winthrop tennis courts behind Winthrop Grade School. We wouldn’t be celebrating a dozen consecutive years of a Miles playing tennis for the Ramblers.

“Allison started, the rest followed, and the rest is history,” Ed Miles, their father, said.

It started when Allison was a freshman in the Spring of 2001. It will end with Dan’s upcoming graduation. In 12 years, the Miles family has 95 wins and 32 losses for the Ramblers.

“We’ve been at these courts I can’t name how many hours. Sometimes freezing, sometimes baking,” Debbie Miles, mother of the Miles Four, said.

On Tuesday, the whole family was at the Winthrop courts to watch Dan’s final home match (He won, 6-0, 6-2). Kelly, home taking a semester off from Sacred Heart University, is the Winthrop boys head coach. Jeff is the assistant coach.

It’s not like the Miles children were bequeathed a love of tennis from their parents. Until last year, when Ed and Debbie played as a doubles team in Allison’s Memorial Day tournament to benefit the Winthrop tennis program, Ed hadn’t played a competitive match since college, 40 years ago. Debbie had only played recreationally.

Ed and Debbie reached the quarterfinals.

“They got an easy draw,” Jeff said.

Allison, now a first grade teacher in Monmouth, is a former girls coach at Winthrop. She coached Kelly in junior high, and again with the Ramblers varsity team in 2010, when she was named Mountain Valley Conference Girls Tennis Coach of the Year.

After she graduated from Winthrop High School, Allison started the Winthrop Middle School girls program in 2005. Allison’s coaching career came at the request of Kelly.

“Having her as a coach was great,” Kelly said.

Now, when it comes time to coach Dan, Jeff usually handles it.

“We have such a bond, it works,” Jeff said.

In a recent match against Spencer Shagoury, Hall-Dale’s top player, Jeff told Dan to play the second set at Shagoury’s speed. When Shagoury hit the ball softly, do the same. If he crushed the ball, return with a hard shot of your own. After losing the first set to Shagoury, 6-1, Dan lost the second, 7-5. Even with the loss, both Dan and Jeff knew he was playing better tennis.

“I’ve tried to do that throughout the year,” Dan said. “The advice he gives really helps. He really knows my game.”

Jeff was diagnosed with a heart condition at birth called transposed ventricles. That means his heart wasn’t getting enough oxygen rich blood from his lungs. Blood could pool up, and cause congestive heart failure. When Jeff was two months old, he had a pacemaker installed, and has had it replaced twice.

That meant playing singles was a no-no to Jeff’s cardiologist. But the cardiologist couldn’t see the intense singles matches Jeff played in his spare time. There’s no doubt, Ed said, that Jeff is the most competitive of his four children.

“Jeff and Dan like to play against each other,” Ed said.

“I’m a pretty competitive person. I don’t like to just hit to hit. I like to play matches,” Jeff said.

The only time in 12 years Ed and Debbie were nervous watching one of their children play was two years ago. A senior, Kelly played a four-hour match against an opponent from Boothbay. By the end, both Kelly and her opponent were gassed and struggling to even return serves.

“It was just so tough,” Ed said. “You wanted it to end, but you wanted her to win, too.”

Kelly won, came off the court, and immediately cried.

When it was time to name the best tennis player in the Miles family, Allison, Kelly and Dan each pointed at Jeff. After a laugh, Jeff pointed at Dan.

“It was hard watching them all slowly get better than me,” Allison said.

Just because they’re done playing, don’t expect the Miles family to vanish from the Winthrop tennis landscape. Jeff, who works at Hannaford in town, could still help coach, and Kelly said she’s like to continue coaching when she’s done at Sacred Heart. Allison, who lives in Carrabassett Valley and works in Monmouth, would coach if she lived close to Winthrop. Dan will be at the University of Maine at Augusta in the fall, not far away from those matches against his brother.

Those sibling matches, they’ll never stop.

“Having each other is neat,” Allison said. “Tennis is a lifetime sport.”

The Miles family has a lot of tennis still in them. After 12 years, they’re just getting started.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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