By Steve Williams
Maddie Maben, L&N STEM Academy’s female Student-Athlete of the Year, was one of the triplets who played tennis at L&N during their high school careers.
While Maddie was a state runner-up in singles this year in TSSAA’s Small School classification, her brothers, Campbell and Kieran, also were excellent players and students and considered for L&N’s top male award, which ended up going to teammate Evan Carr, the state singles champion.
Still, on a day back in March, Campbell had the most meaningful event of all to celebrate. That’s when he returned to the tennis court for his first district match after a battle with cancer.
Campbell was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October of 2019 when he was a junior, pointed out L&N Coach Stephen Blythe last week.
“It was definitely a tough thing to hear,” recalled Blythe, who had all three triplets in his AP Government and Politics class at that time.
Campbell had been on the tennis team prior to then and was a member of the Gryphons’ state championship team and also the state champion doubles team as a sophomore.
Campbell spent the remainder of his high school career as a virtual student at home and took cancer treatments at Vanderbilt Hospital.
“We weren’t sure if he was going to play this year,” said Coach Blythe. “It was kind of kept on the backburner. He joined us in our second regular season match. I did not do a very good job of keeping my composure when I introduced him in the lineup.”
It was a new start for Campbell, who understandably wasn’t his old self.
“Hitting the ball wise, he was definitely struggling and we saw that when we got to the state as well,” said Blythe. “Conditioning-wise, he was struggling to keep up.”
But there is good news.
“He’s in remission now,” said Blythe. “We’re looking like we’re on the right track. We’re not worried anymore about his health overall.
“On his return, you could tell he wasn’t the same player from when his sophomore season ended, just because of lack of playing and the fact that the poor child had to go through cancer treatment. But he came back and won matches and was a pivotal member of us getting back to the state tournament this year.”
Coach Blythe also will tell you the Maben triplets are bright and talented.
“All three are academically driven and were in the Top 10 of the graduating class this year,” he said. “All three also are extremely talented musicians and play classical instruments. One plays violin, one plays the bass and another one plays the classical guitar.”
All three are going to the University of Tennessee with big career goals. Campbell is in Pre-Med with a major in Biological Science. Maddie is in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). Kieran is doing Mechanical Engineering.
“This was my third year at L&N and these kids were there when I started and was the first senior class that I really saw move along,” said Blythe, who was fond of the Mabens and “Campbell especially.
“When you have three siblings, they’re going to have different personalities. They’re going to approach life and different situations in different ways.
“This past post-season and the state tournament, I just never felt so close to Campbell as I did. He’s just such an awesome kid. I can bet one day that you’re going to see the name Maben again. These three kids are going to do something to shock the world.
“It’s just been a privilege to be their coach and see them grow and watch a young man fight the way he did and come back. It was something else.”