For the third year in a row, Williams and Amherst Colleges held the highly anticipated NUSEA Urban Squash Individual Nationals. Athletes, coaches, staff, and fans gathered to witness high level competition while remaining at the edge of their seats during every match point. Although some familiar faces were once again beaming with championship joy, a few new champions emerged.
Joana Pacheco reigned in championship glory, mirroring her finish in the 2016 tournament. Pacheco defended her title by defeating CitySquash teammate, and last year’s GU17 champion, Tyla Mckenzie.
“After winning in three extremely close games, I felt like all of my hard work had paid off,” Pacheco said. “Playing against my own teammate felt even more competitive than last year because I had known her since a young age.”
The graduating senior’s win contributed to CitySquash capturing four out of eight A division titles.
In the BU19 division, Chicago native and MetroSquash team member, Cameron Warren, captured his first Urban Individuals title and MetroSquash’s first U19 title. It is MetroSquash’s first individual title since 2007.
“It feels great I’ve finally reached one of my goals on the road to what I hope will be a long successful squash career,” Warren said. “I think this kicks open the door for the rest of my program, showing that someone from the same spot you are in now was able to excel in the sport and you can too. I also think that it tells the other programs to make way because another heavy hitter of a program is on the scene.”
For the second year in a row, CitySquash captured the BU17 title. StreetSquash’s Zeinab Bakayoko once again claimed StreetSquash’s only A division title, this time however, in the GU17 division. On her way to the championship, Bakayoko played a perfect tournament without dropping a single game.
CitySquash’s Caleb Boateng and Squash Haven’s Karen Escalera won the BU15 and GU15 divisions respectively, acquiring their second Urban Squash Individual Nationals titles.
Lizbeth Barroso returned to defend her GU13 title and left this year’s tournament with an unblemished record, sweeping each round.
Julian Montoya brought a championship home to Colombia in the BU13 division for Squash Urbano Colombia, one of NUSEA’s international member programs.
Throughout the weekend, NUSEA program members and staff had the opportunity to experience college dorm life and get acquainted with competitive high school and college representatives. During the Private High School Meet and Greet, representatives from the likes of Andover, Choate, Hotchkiss, and other top boarding schools discussed their respective schools and admissions processes. In effort to stimulate the recruiting process for urban squash kids, six coaches from top ranked colleges and universities came to watch the college showcase.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the celebration of students’ exceptional academic accomplishments of the past year. As per usual, the essay and art contest winners were announced in each division. Along with celebrating students’ exceptional academic accomplishments of the past year, three special awards were handed out. NUSEA awarded the Ty Griffin Urban Squasher of the Year Scholarship to Squash Haven’s Moubarak Ouro-Aguy and Jennifer Mbah of SquashBusters, two members of this year’s graduating high school class. The future looks bright for CitySquash eighth grader Jesse Sarfo-Brew, the recipient of the Future Star Award.
A tournament that initiated in 2003, first played at the Groton School with only one age division, boys’ and girls’ U13, has since grown to four age divisions: U13, U15, U17, and U19, and has expanded to two college campuses.
“Urban Individuals is not only a place where I can show off my hard work that I have done throughout the year, but it is a place where I get to meet up with friends from Detroit, South Carolina, Philadelphia, and around the country,” Pacheco said.
“This tournament has always been where the best urban squashers have come out to play,” Warren said. “I’ve always walked away with something to learn, but now it looks like I’ve finally graduated.”
Visit NUSEA’s website for more information.