Jack Larsen has a plan if leg cramps return this season: pickle juice.
"It's not so bad," the Whitefish Bay senior tennis player said. "Once you get used to the taste, it's not terrible. To not cramp and not feel that pain, it's definitely worth drinking."
It doesn't get more painful than last season.
Larsen needed only one more point to reach the Division 1 state final, but he had to forfeit after cramping in his legs.
"I just missed (the finals) by an inch," Larsen said. "I couldn't even stand by the time I had to retire."
Larsen has tried just about every way to combat the return of the injury, from Gatorade to calcium magnesium pills.
But what works the best is pickle juice.
"Depending on where I cramp, I try to stretch it out," Larsen said. "Usually, I go straight to the pickle juice and try to chug the whole thing."
Larsen was 51-10 his first two seasons, with a fifth-place finish at state as a freshman and a fourth-place showing as a sophomore.
He was seeded second last season with a 19-3 record, and cramps had plagued Larsen in all three losses.
"It was just amazing how quickly that came up out of nowhere," Bay coach Phil Kelbe said. "The cramps that he had certainly were different than the ones I remember or people experienced. His whole extremity comes up numb. . . .
"He literally couldn't put any weight on it at all. It was very severe. I felt bad for him because he was trying to do the best he could to monitor it. I think he was kind of at a loss, too, when it actually happened."
Larsen was playing Milwaukee Marquette's Damon Niquet in the semifinals and was winning, 6-4, 5-0. That's when one leg started to cramp, and before long, the other leg did the same.
Larsen also withdrew from the third-place match and finished with a 22-5 record.
"I really give him a lot of credit the way he handled that," Kelbe said. "Losing to Damon in the fashion it happened, he still stuck around and wanted to watch the finals. I'm sure it was tough on him to watch."
Larsen has played in several tournaments in the off-season, and he says the only cramping problem he had was in his hands "for a quick second" in early March.
"Hopefully, this stage has passed, and I make it through every match this year," Larsen said.
Larsen has played No. 1 singles every year and his sister, Dana, won state championships at singles and doubles while at Bay.
Larsen hopes it's his turn and is trying to become Bay's first boys champion since Mike Kutchin in 1975.
"It's been my goal from Day 1 when I walked into Whitefish Bay's doors as a freshman," Larsen said. "Unfortunately, I could've been there, but I missed my shot. It gives me an even bigger drive for this year."
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