XXXIII IRF World Junior Racquetball Championships Recap
by Cheryl Kirk
XXXIII IRF World Junior Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
The U.S. Junior Team Delegation (28 athletes plus 44 coaches, staff, and family members) traveled to Guatemala City for the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Championships, December 2-10, 2022. The athletes qualified to play at the USA Racquetball National Junior Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, in June 2022.
The athletes represented eight states: California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Oregon. They included, in order of their age divisions:
WORLD CUP21 & Under
Assuan Castañeda, Florida (Doubles)
Shane Diaz, Texas (Singles/Doubles/Mixed)
Cody Elkins, California (Singles)
Micah Farmer, Texas (Singles/Doubles/Mixed)
Annie Roberts, Oregon (Singles)
Graci Wargo, Florida (Doubles)
18 & Under
Timmy Hansen, Florida (Singles/Doubles/Mixed)
Heather Mahoney, California (Singles/Doubles/Mixed)
DJ Mendoza, Texas (18 Singles/16 Doubles)
Paul Saraceno, California (Doubles)
Julia Stein, Ohio (Singles/Doubles)
16 & Under
Benjamin Horner, Iowa (Singles)
Ava Kaiser, Minnesota (Singles/Doubles)
Naomi Ros, Texas (Singles/Doubles/Mixed)
Cole Sendrey, Texas (Singles/Doubles/Mixed)
14 & Under
Eshan Ali, California (Singles/Doubles)
Elizabeth Denler, Minnesota (Singles/Doubles)
Axel Lopez, Illinois (Singles/Mixed)
Andrea Perez Picon, California (Singles/Doubles)
Nathan Rykhus, California (Singles/Doubles)
Montserrat Torres, Illinois (Singles/Mixed)
12 & Under
Sarah Bawa, California (Singles/Doubles)
Vaishant Mangalampalli, California (Singles/Doubles/Mixed)
Adrian Nelson, Texas (Singles)
Alejandro Robles Picon, California (12 Doubles/10 Singles), California
Aarya Shetty, California (Singles/Doubles/Mixed)
Leah Trejo, Texas (Singles)
10 & Under
Chris Nelson, Texas (Singles)
U.S. JUNIOR TEAM STAFF
Head Coach – Tim Baghurst (Florida)
Team Leader – Cheryl Kirk (Illinois)
Assistant Coaches – George Bustos (Texas), Jennifer Meyer (Colorado), Abraham Peña (South Carolina/Mexico), Sandy Rios (Texas)
Athletic Trainer – Delaney Farmer (Washington)
Raffle Drawing Announcement
Many of the athletes took the opportunity to participate in selling raffle tickets to help raise funds for their trip. The prize drawing held just before departures named the winner of the $500 prize. Congratulations to Rosco Halsey of Olathe, Kansas! When Rosco heard he won the prize, he immediately suggested some ways that it can be used to support Junior Racquetball development. Not a surprise, and thank you for your generosity, Rosco!
Family and Coaching Support
The U.S. Junior Team Delegation totaled 72! Family members, friends, and two private coaches* were there in support of team members. Six parents** did double duty as coaches for their own players, alongside the U.S. Junior Team Coaches.
They are: Anwar Ali**, Marian Bala*, Waseem Bawa, Kadambari Beelwar, Hilda Collazo, Ron Denler, Brett Elkins, Stephen Farmer, Adriana Galicia, Joe Hall, Tim Hansen**, Sarah Hansen, Felix Hernandez*, Dan Horner, Melissa Horner, Rhonda Kimler, Jesus Lopez Jr., John Mahoney, Melodese Mahoney, Sameer Mangalampalli**, David Mendoza, Safiya Nelson, Solomon Nelson, Danielle Roberts, Imelda Rocio Robles, Sarah Rykhus, Steve Rykhus**, Jonathan Sanchez-Simancas, Frank Saraceno, Kevin Sendrey, Adam Stein, Adolfo Jairo Torres**, Claudia Torres, Sabath Trejo, Maria Elena Vazquez, Gary Wargo**, and Kathleen Wargo.
All the buzz surrounding this World Juniors event manifested itself in various ways:
1. Visit www.internationalracquetball.com to view the draws and results.
3. Live streaming was provided by the IRF for quarterfinals, semifinals, finals, (and the Awards Ceremonies on December 9th and 10th), for fans from participating countries including the USA. Visit the IRF’s YouTube channel to view streamed matches saved there: https://www.youtube.com/@irftv-internationalracquet6344
4. Social media posts were abundant from the staff as well as the families and the athletes themselves.
Countries in Attendance
The countries, their abbreviations, and number of athletes from each stacked up this way:
Argentina (ARG, 7); Bolivia (BOL, 34); Canada (CAN, 7); Chile (CHI, 5); Colombia (COL, 3); Costa Rica (CRI, 38); Cuba (CUB, 2); Ecuador (ECU, 24); Guatemala (GUA, 15); Mexico (MEX, 33); United States (USA, 28). That’s 196 in all, and it added up to 650 matches over the course of eight days.
World Championships Scoring
Rally scoring was used, which meant that a point was scored on every rally whether the rally winner was the server or the receiver.
The format was Best 3 Games of 5, all to 11 points, all win by 2 points. In other words, the first player/team to win three games is the match winner. If one player/team wins the first three games in a row, the match is over. If they split with the opponent(s), two games each, they go to a tiebreaker fifth game.
Competition Divisions and Awards
Singles and Doubles were competed in all age divisions and including Mixed Doubles (added by the IRF this year). Medals were awarded (Gold, Silver, Bronze) as were Overall, Boys, and Girls Team trophies. The Team portion of the competition was divided into two overall age categories: World Cup (21 & Under, 18 & Under, and 16 & Under) and Esprit Cup (14 & Under, 12 & Under, and 10 & Under)..
Division Types Explained
Depending upon the number of entries in each division (Boys/Girls in Singles/Doubles/Mixed Doubles divisions by Age), the divisions were organized into the most appropriate format: Olympic Format, Pool Play, or Round Robin.
Boys 10, 12, and 14 Singles were competed in Olympic Format where first-round losers in the Gold went to the Red division (and then on to the White division if they lost again), second-round losers in the Gold went to the Blue division. They all continued to compete in these “dropdown” divisions, which afforded more match play and yielded medals as well.
The Girls 10 Doubles and Girls 12 Doubles were each a double Round Robin (everyone played everyone else twice).
The rest of the divisions (25) were all played in Pool Play format, with competition divided into smaller round robins for initial play. Once those were completed, single elimination playoff divisions were formed to determine the medalists in the last four days of the tournament.
IRF XXXIII World Junior Championships – Overall Results – Individual and By Country
it was impossible not to beam with pride when our Team USA athletes stepped onto the medals stand. We couldn’t be prouder of our 28 athletes!
On the medals stand Friday and Saturday at the Awards Ceremonies, the following U.S. Junior Team players claimed their rewards for their results in Guatemala City:
TEAM USA Overall Results -- Individual -- WORLD CUP
G16S, Naomi Ros, GOLD
G16S, Ava Kaiser, BRONZE
B16D, Cole Sendrey/DJ Mendoza, BRONZE
G16D, Ava Kaiser/Naomi Ros, BRONZE
G18D, Heather Mahoney/Julia Stein, SILVER
G21S, Shane Diaz, BRONZE
G21D, Graci Wargo/Shane Diaz, BRONZE
MX21D, Shane Diaz/Micah Farmer, BRONZE
TEAM USA Overall Results -- Individual -- ESPRIT CUP
B10G, Alejandro Robles Picon, SILVER
B10W, Adrian Nelson, SILVER
B12R, Vaishant Mangalampalli, GOLD
G12D, Sarah Bawa/Aarya Shetty, BRONZE
MX12D, Aarya Shetty/Vaishant Mangalampalli, SILVER
B14G, Eshan Ali, BRONZE
B14B, Nathan Rykhus, BRONZE
B14R, Axel Lopez, GOLD
B14D, Eshan Ali/Nathan Rykhus, BRONZE
G14D, Elizabeth Denler/Andrea Perez Picon, BRONZE
Overall Results -- Country Standings
When all points were tallied from the round robin/pool play phase as well as the main draws (single elimination phase), here’s how the countries fared. Team USA placed third in Esprit Boys, Girls, and Overall and the World Cup team also placed third in Boys, Girls, and Overall!
World Cup -- Girls
4. Costa Rica
World Cup -- Boys
4. Costa Rica
World Cup -- Combined
4. Costa Rica
Esprit Cup -- Girls
4. Costa Rica
Esprit Cup -- Boys
Esprit Cup -- Combined
4. Costa Rica
The US Junior Team Delegation wishes to deliver our gratitude to those who made this event so truly memorable:
IRF President Osvaldo Maggi and IRF Vice President Marcelo Gómez Pacheco for their leadership and dedication to Racquetball and its development around the world. Also, to Luke St. Onge and Keith Calkins whose earlier work set a solid foundation for the future.
The Host Country of Guatemala (Dr. Estuardo Wer, President) and the Local Organizing Committee, for hosting this very successful event. The work behind the scenes is extensive. Congratulations on a job very well done! Your service to the 11 countries who came to compete was efficient, friendly, and never to be forgotten.
The management and staff of Domo Complejo for providing a first-class facility for this World Juniors competition. Also, we appreciate the club employees and volunteers who kept the entire racquetball area and the courts themselves clean throughout the event.
Twenty-two referees from 11 countries were on hand to provide a quality experience for the players. We’re grateful for their support and hard work! Thanks to Sebastian Digon (ARG), Daniel Villarroel (BOL), Koko Keller (BOL), Kadim Carrasco (BOL), John Halko (CAN), Daniel Smith (CAN), Alvaro Yañez (CHI), Fabian Torres (COL), Pacho Gomez (COL), Merynanyelly Delgado (DOM), Ramon De Leon (DOM), Maria Paz Muñoz (ECU), Francisco Cuevas (ECU), Alejandro Morales (MEX), Christian Longoria (MEX), Lilo Aguilar (MEX), Ivan Valdez (MEX), Jaime Martell (MEX), Tucky Kravitz (MEX), Miguel Santiago (PUR/USA), Jehyson Franco (GUA), and Fernando Perez (GUA).
The referees and all attendees are in turn supported by a seasoned staff led by IRF President Osvaldo Maggi (ARG). They are Mauro Grandio, Pablo Berriel, and Adrian Macrino (all from ARG) as well as Gary Mazaroff. Dean Schear, and Gustavo Farell (all from USA), and Marie Gomar (GUA). Pablo Fajre (CHI) arrived to provide live streaming beginning on Monday of the event with excellent commentary from Gary and Gustavo. Alexis Iwaasa (Canada) and Kadim Carrasco (Bolivia) did a great job on the social media aspects of this event.
The Team USA Delegation parents and “cheerleaders” were present for every match, living every point as if they themselves were out there competing. Coach Tim Baghurst says it best: “The USA contingent have been helpful, kind, supportive; they have represented our nation well in this multicultural environment. From providing donuts (the food kind) to others, to finding us food, to picking up trash, to appreciating the skills of opponents, this has been a very supportive group I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. Thank you for allowing us to do our job and being the support system that your athletes needed.”
The staff of the Clarion Suites were friendly, efficient, and responsive to all requests.
IRF Sponsor, Gearbox (owner Rafael Filippini), always contributes significantly to these international events.
Rollout, the U.S. Junior Team Official Apparel Provider, made the team’s uniforms available.
The California Nevada Racquetball Association (Terry Rogers) who made a special donation to help with supplies for the coaching staff.
Aimee Roehler, who stopped whatever else she might have been doing as soon as a blog and photos were ready for posting and who did a super job with social media visibility.
Coach Jen Meyer for assistance to the Team Leader above and beyond the call of duty.
Tom Travers for donating a treatment table for the use of Delaney Farmer, our athletic trainer, at the club.
Sabath Trejo (Leah’s dad) for taking spectacular team photos with a REAL camera. He did a great job and continues from back home to making his photos available to the delegation.
Marie Gomar, an always-gracious host, from assisting with arrivals at the airport, to helping procure water and snacks for the coaches’ rooms, to translating at the coaches meeting. She goes out of her way to help us and the other countries’ delegations.
Congratulations to each and every athlete and country delegation who placed in the standings as well as those who did not. Everyone represented their countries with honor and pride, and Team USA is proud to be a member of the worldwide Racquetball family.
Families were able to navigate their athletes’ match schedules and still find time for some sightseeing. Three popular activities were visits to the zoo, to Antigua*, and to Volcán Pacaya**.
* Antigua Guatemala (Spanish pronunciation: [anˈtiɣwa ɣwateˈmala]), commonly known as AntiguaorLa Antigua, is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala known for its centuries-old architecture and ruins. It has been designated a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site, featuring Spanish Baroque-influenced buildings.
One of the most compelling attractions for both local and international visitors that Guatemala has to offer are its 37 volcanoes. The three active volcanoes, Pacaya, Fuego, and Santiaguito, are different in their level of difficulty given the time and effort needed to hike them. Lava flows and explosions have been common, although Pacaya has been dormant for the past year.
Fuego is a different story. It gets the most attention, because its explosions are the most frequent (every 30 seconds to one minute). However, it takes two days to hike it, including camping to watch Fuego’s explosions late into the night and then viewing the sunrise. This is not an undertaking for everyone!
For more info, including a description of the eruption of Volcán de Fuego in June 2018, visit https://www.volcanodiscovery.com/fuego.html.
As it turned out, the attention given in The Daily Blog to the topic of volcanoes was somewhat prophetic given what happened next. Just when you thought Sunday would bring smooth departures home, Volcán Fuego decided differently. A major eruption took place Saturday night that necessitated closure of La Aurora International Airport for a number of hours on Sunday.
Who knew, it turns out airplane engines and volcanic ash do not safely co-exist. Nearly half of the U.S. Delegation (who were there as early as 3:30 am), along with many from the other countries, spent a good deal of time waiting for air travel to resume (i.e., ash no longer a safety concern).
So, eruption morphed into major disruption for travelers who missed their connections on the next leg of travel. However, by the end of the day, into the wee hours of Monday morning, most were back home safe and sound with this occurrence to add to the many memories of the trip.
"When you fight with all you have and commit to exceeding expectations, you don't need a trophy to be a champion." -- Unknown
The mark of champions is how they handle themselves, win or lose, as they pursue their dreams. Congratulations to all 28 champions on the U.S. Junior Team. USA Racquetball and the U.S. Team staff couldn't be prouder of this team and this delegation. A group of 72 people arrived together, visited, celebrated wins, lamented losses, and left Guatemala as a family.
Until next time...GO TEAM USA!!
Photos courtesy of the US Junior Team Delegation.