When Kristina Smith, a top-ranked tennis recruit from Dana Hills High School, announced in fall 2008 that she would attend UC Irvine, her decision didn't just please the university's coaching staff. It was cheered by a large cadre of her relatives. By enrolling in the class of 2013, Smith became the youngest member of an Anteater clan that spans three generations, includes more than a dozen alumni and dates back to the campus's early days.
Indeed, if there's an ancestral tree with more Anteaters, nobody — even UCI Alumni Association staff members — knows of it. Not only did Smith's grandmother Mary Myers '76 graduate from UCI but so did all of Myers' 10 children: Teresa, Laura, Randy, Steven, Monica, Lisa, Melinda, John, James and Maria, Smith's mother.
"It became a tradition to go to UCI," says grandmother Myers.
Maria Smith '83, a Laguna Niguel resident who, like her daughter, played tennis for the Anteaters, says: "When you're from a big family, an away college is expensive. We lived in Newport Beach, liked living at home, and nearby UCI offered great academics."
Her parents, Mary and Ross Myers, were still raising their large family when Mary — who already had two years of college credits — decided to finish her bachelor's in English. Sons Randy '76 and Steven '76 were still UCI undergraduates; eldest daughters Teresa '71 and Laura '73 had already graduated.
"It was fun to have people call me by my first name," Mary recalls, "and going to class felt like entertainment." She still attends a writing workshop offered through UCI Extension.
Kristina Smith inherited a love of words from her grandmother and is an English major too. She got the tennis gene from her grandfather Ross Myers, who taught all of his children to play. (He's the only member of his immediate family who's not an Anteater. Instead, his wife notes, "he's a University of Oregon Duck.")
"In the summer, my husband would take the kids to the Newport Harbor High School courts every morning, and they'd work out," Mary says. "We saw to it that they never competed against each other; they all rooted for each other."
In addition to Maria, Melinda '82 and James '86 played tennis for UCI, and Maria competed individually in the NCAA championships her junior and senior years. "I never took any lessons," she says.
Maria now teaches tennis to girls, and her youngest daughter, Alyssa, is ranked No. 5 nationally in the under-16 category. Her middle daughter, Joanna, will attend Arizona State University this fall on a full tennis scholarship. (Dad's training camp produced two more tennis professionals — Randy, head pro at Costa Mesa's Mesa Verde Country Club, and John '86, a tennis instructor for the city of Laguna Hills.)
Maria's daughter Kristina learned the sport from both her grandfather and her parents. (Her father played for the University of Maryland.) While at Dana Hills High School, she was a California Interscholastic Federation doubles champion in 2007 and a doubles finalist in 2006 and 2008. She also led her team to two CIF titles.
As a freshman at UCI last year, Kristina helped the Anteaters win their first Big West Conference title and qualify for the NCAA championships. She earned All-Big West honors and was voted the team's most valuable player.
"What's most impressive about Kristina is her strength of character and integrity. It's hard to find a more grounded person. And after meeting her family, it's clear where these admirable traits come from," says Mike Edles, women's tennis head coach. "The Myerses and Smiths are very close-knit and solid to the core.
"She's a remarkable player from a remarkable family."
Mary Myers '76, English
Teresa Pomeroy '71, theater arts (lives in Newport Beach)
Laura Myers '73, theater arts (J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law)
Randy Myers III '76, theater arts (head tennis pro at Mesa Verde Country Club)
Steven Myers '76, social science (J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law)
Monica Gelson '79, theater arts (lives on Cape Cod)
Lisa Swedlund '81, social science (former special education teacher)
Melinda Myers '82, social science (singer and Laguna Niguel resident)
Maria Smith '83, social science (Laguna Niguel resident)
John Myers '86, social ecology (tennis instructor and Aliso Viejo resident)
James Myers '86, classics (Laguna Niguel resident)
Randy Myers IV '05, social ecology (currently working on a doctorate at UCI)
Sarah Swedlund, M.A.T. '09
Kristina Smith, second-year English major
—Kathryn Bold, University Communications