Alexandra Murdock and her family are going to New York City today because she is one of 10 national winners in the Arthur Ashe Essay Contest sponsored by the U.S. Tennis Association.
No one could be more surprised than Murdock, who won in the 10-and-under category.
"I had heard of Arthur Ashe, but I didn't know what he had done until we went to the library and I read about him," said Murdock, now 11. "They used a lot of good adjectives. I now think of Arthur Ashe as a good, kind, calm, patient and trustworthy man on and off the court."
The 10 national essay winners each receive an all-expenses-paid trip to New York to attend Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the National Tennis Center. The winners also will be honored at a luncheon and attend the Broadway show Mary Poppins and a New York Mets game.
Excitement was high at the Murdock home in Randallstown this week as the entire family prepared for the trip that will conclude Sunday night - just in time for school to begin Monday.
Murdock and her two sisters, Allison, 9, and Aleisha, 7, participate in the Baltimore Tennis Patrons' Excellence Program, a year-round advanced instructional program for girls and boys.
The Murdocks' coach, Ronald Scott, told all of his players to enter the contest, which requires a 300-word essay answering the question "Why is Arthur Ashe a legend?"
Alexandra, daughter of Alfred and Tonia Murdock, went to Wellwood International Elementary in Pikesville and will start middle school this fall.
Her winning paper first defined the word legend and then briefly stated why Ashe fits the description.
"He persevered even though he was the victim of blatant racism, especially in the beginning of his tennis career," she wrote. "He faced everything in life with strength, courage and love."
Then she touched on his accomplishments: from winning seven U.S. Davis Cup titles, to becoming the first African-American man to win Grand Slam tournaments, to protesting against apartheid in South Africa.