WESLEY CHAPEL — Mary was a little too common — not what the Makaromes wanted for their first child.
So 14 years ago, James and Magdalene called their daughter Star. They couldn’t have picked a more fitting name.
Star Makarome is one of Tampa Bay’s brightest tennis talents and a nationally-ranked five-star prospect. The Wiregrass Ranch freshman breezed to a district title and has lost only three games this season heading into the Class 4A state tournament.
“I did not expect it to be this awesome,” Makarome said.
But success has come quickly.
Her parents started her on tennis when she was 5 to keep her active. She’d hit for 30 minutes or an hour while talking about cartoons with her dad, then run off the court and jump on the nearby playground. Two years later, she was skilled and dedicated enough to begin training seriously.
During the frigid Maryland winters, outdoor practice was nearly impossible, and indoor courts were reserved for the top adults — except for the 5 a.m. block. So Makarome woke her parents up at 4 a.m. to squeeze in an hour of hitting before a family breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts.
Sometimes she’d ask to go to a public park for more work, even if it meant sweeping snow off the courts with a broom.
“She looked like huge snowballs with a huge coat,” said her father, James.
Since then, Makarome has guided her family across the country like her namesake, Mary, Star of the Sea.
Her family moved to Wesley Chapel in 2007, in part to provide more training for Makarome and her younger brother, Noah. Their dad coaches both of them, and they’ve traveled as a family all over the nation, loading the car for 18-hour drives to Arkansas for national tournaments.
The results are showing. Makarome finished last year at No. 40 in the USTA’s 14-year-old girls rankings and sits at No. 39 in TennisRecruiting.net’s list of top freshmen. Her brother was No. 1 among the USTA’s rankings of 12-year-old boys.
“It doesn’t really feel like practice,” Makarome said. “We get to spend time together. That’s something I feel some families today don’t get to do, and we enjoy doing it.”
This week the Makaromes have a new destination — Lake Brantley, site of the Class 4A state tournament. With precise groundstrokes and spot-on drop shots, the 5-foot Makarome didn’t drop a game in claiming the district title.
“She loves the game of tennis,” Bulls coach Jewell Fye said. “She is dedicated and committed to it.”
Makarome said she hopes she improves enough to play in college and, maybe, launch a professional career.
She got a brief look at how intense pro tennis can be earlier this year. In January, she earned a wildcard spot into the qualifying draw for the Ace Sports Group Tennis Classic at Innisbrook. Makarome lost, 6-0, 6-0 to Shelby Rogers, a 19-year-old American ranked No. 425 in the world.
“It was a good benchmark to see where I am,” Makarome said, “ and how good I have to be in those years if I really want to make it big time.”
And how good she’ll have to be to live up to her name.
When: 4A Monday-Wednesday, 8 a.m.; 3A Wednesday-Friday, 8
Where: Team competition at Sanlando Park; individual competition at Lake Brantley
4A local qualifiers: Wiregrass Ranch’s Courage Okungbowa (No. 1 boys singles), Okungbowa and Eric Busch (No. 1 doubles), Star Makarome (No. 1 girls singles), Makarome and Tiffany Garner (No. 1 doubles)
3A qualifiers: Land O’Lakes’ Colin Roller (No. 1 boys singles), Roller and David Dollbaum (No. 1 doubles), Zephyrhills’ Sarah Vande Berg (No. 1 girls singles), Land O’Lakes’ Linzi and Cori Arndt (No. 1 doubles)
When: Monday-Wednesday; 8 a.m.
Where: Team competition at Casselberry Red Bug Lake Park; individual competition at Sanford Sylvan Lake Park
2A qualifiers: Nature Coast’s Zenon Kouts (No. 1 boys singles), Pasco’s Austin Riddaugh and Josh Morris (No. 1 doubles), Nature Coast’s Delanie McCabe (No. 1 girls singles), McCabe and Mallorie Pickersgill (No. 1 doubles)