2023 USA Racquetball National Junior Festival and Championships presented by Team DOVETAIL
by Cheryl Kirk
National Junior Championships were hosted by Bay Club in Pleasanton, California, June 21-25, 2023. We can’t say enough about this beautiful facility and the nice people who staff it. Thank you!
First up, let’s start with stats.
Players numbering 111 competed, with 27 entering two divisions and 70 entering three.
In the 63 divisions (both singles and doubles), 70 boys and 41 girls aged 5 to 22 hit the ball against the wall Wednesday through Sunday with the winners going home with medals in Olympic format (Gold, Blue, Red, and White) divisions as well as Round Robin divisions.
With 17 states in attendance, California contributed 46 players, Texas brought 17 players (8 from San Antonio), and Missouri brought 19. Many of the students from Missouri represented Lafayette High School in Wildwood, coached by Manny Rodriguez. What a great way to foster experience and team spirit for the next USAR National High School Championships in early 2024!
Without you, where would we be? Our sincerest gratitude goes to:
Presenting Sponsor: Team Dovetail
USAR Premier Partners: Gearbox, Penn, WIS Inventory Solutions
USAR Partners: APS Nike, Ashaway Racket Strings, Dynamic Tape, Firefly, INTENT Beverages, Splathead, Talty Bar
Very special thanks go to Visit Tri-Valley whose contributions to this event were substantial. We can’t thank you enough for what you did for USA Racquetball and for this Junior Championships event!
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pleasanton at the Club
Holiday Inn Dublin-Pleasanton, an IHG Hotel
The STAFF & VOLUNTEERS!
Much gratitude goes to this hard-working group who teamed up OFF the courts to provide their special brands of expertise. Let’s call them “Aces in their Places.” Their mantra for the weekend was: “Yes! Now, what’s the question?”
USAR Staff Members: Executive Director Mike Grisz, Karen Grisz, and Jonathan Greenberg
Bay Club Operations: Bobby Horn and Adam Manilla
Photographer: Dylan Shoemaker
Videographer: Enrique Villaseñor
Live Streaming Management and Commentary: JT Rball, Karen Grisz, Sandy Rios, Tim Baghurst, Jonathan Greenberg, Sam Schulze, Kevin Sendrey, Carrie Reitmeier, Cody Elkins, Estefania Perez Picon, Mike Kinkin, Waseem Bawa...and more!
U.S. Junior Team Head Coach Tim Baghurst (Parents’ Meeting, Awards Ceremony)
U.S. Esprit Team Assistant Coach Jen Meyer (Parents’ Meeting, Awards Ceremony)
Cindy Tilbury (Medals/Tournament Desk)
Cheryl Kirk (U.S. Junior Team Admin/Parents’ Meeting/Awards Ceremony)
A special note of gratitude goes to the players and spectators who stepped up to referee matches. The tournament desk staff do a happy dance when someone says, “Sure, I’ll ref!” ❤️ And that goes double when someone walks up and says, “Do you need a ref?” ❤️❤️
This is a category all by itself. Brian Dixon and the Junior Committee went to work and raised the money to provide meals throughout the event for not only the athletes but their families, too. Well done!!!
Hospitality sponsors – you made a big difference! Thanks to Sandy Long, Erica Williams/CSAA,
Manilla Athletics, Long Ball LLC, Reaching Your Dream Foundation (RYDF), Team Dovetail, and five State Associations: Commonwealth of Virginia, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, and New Mexico
No one went hungry with delicious meals from Pizza My Heart, Hi Tech Burrito, Pleasanton Catering, Kona Shaved Ice, the Diaz family Taco Bar (thanks for your assistance, Dave and Pat Ellis!), and more.
At the Annual Awards and Party on Saturday evening, June 24th, Karen Grisz served as emcee. She recognized everyone who supplied their time, efforts, expertise, and financial support for this Junior Nationals. Karen especially thanked the parents, guardians, and coaches who accompanied their athletes to Pleasanton.
Karla Brown, Mayor of Pleasanton, graciously attended to greet the attendees and deliver enthusiastic congratulations and words of encouragement to the athletes and their families.
USAR Junior Committee Chair Brian Dixon recognized the committee members for their hard work in pre-planning as well as contributing at the event: Brian Ancheta, George Bustos, Dan Horner, Sandy Long, Erika Manilla, Armando Perez, Carrie Reitmeier, Gary Wargo
Erika Manilla, Team USA Member, who began her racquetball career over 17 years ago on Junior Team USA, delivered a motivational message on how losing can actually become life lessons on how to overcome (and learn from) failure to inspire future success.
Team USA Head Coach Tim Baghurst and Esprit Coach Jen Meyer presented the World Cup, Esprit Cup, and Sportsmanship Awards
- World Cup Male and Female Athletes of the Year – Cole Sendrey and Naomi Ros
- Esprit Cup Male and Female Athletes of the Year – Eshan Ali and Aarya Shetty
- Sportsmanship Award – Nathan Rykhus
All-American recognition was given to the athletes who placed 1st-4th in team qualifying singles divisions and/or 1st and 2nd place in team qualifying doubles divisions.
The evening concluded with the announcement that the 2024 USA Racquetball National Junior Racquetball Championships will be returning to Bay Club Pleasanton next June!
Matches concluded on Sunday, followed by medals and photo ops galore. Athletes, their families, and coaches then headed back home to continue their summer activities. Thanks to everyone who made the trip to Junior Nationals -- see you next year!
Click HERE for the newly named All Americans and U.S. Junior Team.
2023 USA Racquetball National Junior Festival and Championships