Jeffrey Melvin and Chuck Shewalter are the Upper Arlington High School boys tennis team's top two singles players, but that's not the only way their lives and playing careers are intertwined.
Shewalter, a junior who plays first singles for the Golden Bears, grew up in the Boston area, but he committed to Ohio State this past winter and moved to UA -- his father's hometown -- midway through this school year. He helped Boston College High School win the Massachusetts Division I team championship last year.
Melvin, a senior and lifelong UA resident who has held down second singles this year, has committed to play for Boston College, the university. He teamed with 2013 graduate Nate Wallace to win the Division I doubles state championship -- the program's state-record 17th -- last year, one day before helping the Bears win their second consecutive Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state title.
Their challenge matches to determine who will play first singles have lasted as long as two and a half hours and, to date, all have been won by Shewalter, but theirs is a rivalry that doesn't feature animosity.
"It's a beneficial rivalry," said Shewalter, whose father, Thomas, was one of 10 siblings who graduated from UA. "You're not angry when you shake hands at the net. You fight it out on the court and do whatever you can to win, but when it's over, everyone is happy."
Shewalter and Melvin have anchored the lineup ahead of a third singles slot that has featured Jackson McNair, Anthony Yang and Jack Zelezny. UA was 9-1 overall before playing Pickerington North on April 29 and is 6-0 in the OCC-Central Division.
Coach Amos Allison said that while Melvin and Shewalter's games have some similarities, by no means are they mirror images of each other on the court.
"They both hit a hard ball, but it's a different kind of hard ball," Allison said. "Jeffrey is a (right-handed player), tall and slender who smacks the ball a little bit. Chuck's a lefty. He's tall and he doesn't smack the ball as much, but they both hit the heck out of it.
"Jeffrey's game is more (about) moving and coming forward to the net. Chuck will wear you out and take you apart from the baseline."
Melvin and Shewalter first met this past fall, when Melvin visited his sister at Boston College. Melvin also was considering Ohio State at the time and said he contacted Shewalter after talking to Buckeyes coach Ty Tucker.
"We met up and I told him about UA and Ohio State. I told him it'd be great to have him on the team," Melvin said. "We hit a little bit, but we hadn't formally hit until he came down second semester. We played some at my club (The Racquet Club of Columbus) and Ohio State. Once the season started, we've had some great challenge matches."
Shewalter credited Melvin with easing his transition to a new school, despite his own familiarity with the area from having visited family.
"I couldn't have asked for a better friend," Shewalter said. "He took me under his wing, showed me around and everything. I had nothing when I first got here, and Jeffrey was always there."
UA is looking to win its 32nd consecutive league championship Thursday, May 1, when it plays host to Olentangy Liberty. The match had been scheduled for April 15 but was postponed because of bad weather.
The four OCC division champions will square off to determine the overall conference champion Saturday, May 3, at a location to be determined. Second-place teams from each division also will play each other, and so on, the same day at other sites.
Winning a league championship is only the first postseason goal for Melvin and Shewalter, as both admit they want to face off for sectional, district and state singles titles.
"Jeffrey's accomplished what he could in doubles and I think he'll make a run at singles this year. It'd be great to see him and Chuck battle it out," Allison said. "But there's a lot of great competition in this state. There are a lot of guys in the way for both of them."