The 2023 US Squash Junior National Championships were conducted this past weekend in the Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia. I have a somewhat unfortunate tendency to overuse superlatives in my event reports, but candidly, the venue itself is unsurpassed, with 18 courts including two all glass blue ones, just like the one here at Squash Tigers that we rehearse on! The event itself guarantees the best of the best, with the top 32 juniors from each age group in the 13, 15, 17 and 19’s and the top 16 in the 11’s. A little math (must drop the ubiquitous quote “it was my understanding there would be no math”) tells you that 288 of the best and brightest were (mostly) under one roof. Interestingly enough, some of the consolation matches were conducted at the nearby University of Pennsylvania… possibly the most luxurious “run off facility” in the history of junior squash… but I digress.
While trying not to “bury the lede” too much, in an event of highlights, Squash Tigers and our “extended family” can boast 12 qualifiers, 4 of who made the top 10 in the country and all of whom played their hearts out! Read on for the minutiae… detailed chronologically, as befits a breakdown!
Long story short, the GU11 saw our sole representative, Mimi, achieve an outstanding quarter final that made all and sundry proud and was a great reward for a season of hard work. Mimi, ranked 10 in the country, moved her rating from 2.0 to 3.28 in a calendar year, all with a big smile on her face and perhaps a cheeky glance at passers by. Shout out to frequent Squash Tigers visitor Kaylee, who made the final, but couldn’t quite close the deal. Hers will undoubtedly be another day and both should be joined by some of their clubmates, with the hive of hard workers we have in our U11 crew!
Madeleine in the GU13 started the event in fine style. 2/0 down to a squash icon's daughter, Madeleine fought back, saved match balls and won in a memorable five games. Second round she ran into the juggernaut that is our frequent Squash Tiger visitor Isabella (don’t call me Bella), who went on to win the event. Madeleine should be proud of her season, the second half of which would be the envy of many. Statistically, Madeleine moved 2.89 to 3.79 in a calendar year. She played her first JCT in January finishing in 11/12, backed up in Texas with a 9th place, then finally won through to 17th place in the Nationals and a top 20 National Ranking. Wow. Just wow. Well done!
The GU15 saw Reghan get the job done in very portable style… seeded three coming in, she achieved her rank and walked away with the Bronze medal! Congratulations to Miss! Congratulations also to Lilly, ranked 8 in the country she finished in 10th and although one would always wish for more, as she had a win over the young lady who went on to be Champ, it was still a season of which to be proud!
The BU15 was filled with “The Boys”. JJ was the standout on this occasion and had a magnificent season. JJ was the #1 BU13 in the country and won two JCT titles before aging up. On this particular weekend JJ went up another level, winning the catchily titled William T. Ketcham Jr. Most Improved Award for BU15 - having moved 80 ranking places in the season! For the Nationals, JJ came 10th and will be looking to the podium next year… can’t wait! Our other representatives, Eric, Kunal and Shrikar also enjoyed great seasons. Statistically, Eric moved his rating 0.7 in the past year, which is remarkable, but marginally less than Shrikar who may well have set records with his move from 4.21 to 5.06 in the same time. Both boys have worked hard and deserve all the success that has come their way. On this particular weekend, Eric unfortunately had to withdraw ill, Kunal ran into the eventual Champ in the second round and Shrikar went 3/2 in matches and underlined his improvement. Bigger things ahead gentlemen!
The BU17 was the “everyone aged up” experience. Colton and Alex have both had outstanding seasons, aging up from BU15 at #1 and #3 in the country respectively with Colton having won two JCT titles. In this event the boys played their hearts out, truly “leaving it all on the courts' ' and actually played off in the 18/19 playoff. Perhaps next year it will be the final and both have twelve months to put in the work required. Challenge on…
Our sole representative in the GU17 did us proud, as always. Claire kicked off the season in the GU15 with a JCT semi-final and quarter-final, aging up at #6 in the nation. In the Nationals Claire finished 13/16 to cap off one of the most meritorious “down years” one could wish. Bigger things ahead for the hardest worker in a club of the hardest workers.
As our less experienced club players read through this, it is timely to remind them that a Nationals place is a worthy goal. Squash is a fantastic sport in that it rewards a strong work ethic and a methodical approach. At Squash Tigers we provide the knowledge, the venue and the encouragement… with a proven methodology kids have a vehicle to achieve their goals in the sport and the coaching team to facilitate their performance. There are bigger things ahead indeed!
This weekend we have Bronze and Silver Nationals, so it’s back to Philly for the coaches and back to work for the Gold Nationals crew. Remember that although we have coaches in Philly, TRAINING ALWAYS RUNS on the normal schedule, with this weekend being the final two days of our Spring Camp. See y''all at training!