Squash Yukon hosts largest championship, capitals challenge for squirrel cup

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Over the last few years the Yukon Open has attracted more players from outside the territory, but this year it was a whole other animal.

Yukon, N.W.T., Alberta and B.C. were represented at this year’s squash championship that wrapped up May 7 at Better Bodies Whitehorse.

Organizers moved couches and lounge chairs courtside to accommodate the spectators at the event that saw a record field with 81 players, making it the largest event ever hosted by Squash Yukon.

“I think the previous record was about 75, way back a couple of decades ago,” said Squash Yukon president Stephen Buckler.

“It was a team effort. A lot of people came together to help out finding sponsorships, getting furniture, setting up the camera, making it into a tournament that people from all across Canada would want to come to. So I just want to thank everyone for helping out.”

With Yellowknife players in the mix, it’s official: a rivalry has been awakened.

Last season Squash Yukon sent a dozen Whitehorse players to Yellowknife to compete in the N.W.T. championships. This past weekend Yellowknife reciprocated by sending 10 to the Yukon Open, thereby resurrecting the YellowHorse Cup, a trophy adorned by Nick, a taxidermied squirrel with a racquet in one hand an a tiny bottle of Winterlong beer in the other.

“Squash Yukon really wanted to get a rivalry going between Yellowknife and Whitehorse again because back in the day that was the big thing in squash in the North,” said Buckler. “So we decided to make this goofy trophy that people would be excited about bringing into their club. We brought 12 people to their club last year to challenge them and that totally sparked it.”

YellowHorse Cup, which will be fought over at tournaments featuring players from the two capitals, goes to the side that wins the most games in head-to-head matches.

Yellowknife won it this time by a confusing score of 85.5-54.45, but Whitehorse players plan to take it back early next month at the N.W.T. championships.

“Maybe five, 10 years ago … we used to have a really good rivalry with them, had a challenge cup trophy, and we kind of figured we’d resurrect it,” said Yellowknife’s Garrett Hinchey.

“I remember when we used to have the old one — that trophy got lost in Whitehorse and no one knows where it is — they (Whitehorse players) won it eight or nine times and we only won it one time. So it’s nice to be the inaugural winners of the new one. My mom owns the gym in Yellowknife and she’s already trying to figure out where she’s going to put it — this taxidermied squirrel with a beer in its hand.”

The influx of Outside players to this year’s open meant it was a lot tougher to keep titles in the territory. Whitehorse players won two out of eight divisions — three if you count former Whitehorsians.

Lia Johnson, who was raised in Whitehorse but now lives in Kelowna, B.C., went undefeated in four round robin matches to take the open women’s division.

“I’m feeling really great. I came up to play in the tournament because I heard the group had put on a big showing, getting everybody together, so it’s fun to be back in the Squash Yukon community,” said Johnson, 29, who moved south six years ago. “I’ve been playing some of these ladies for probably 15 years, so it’s kind of fun to come back and play them again.”

The other Whitehorse players to top divisions were Jonathan Hawkins in men’s A and Susan Whitty in women’s D.

Victoria players Dominic Henderson, Wilson MacDonald and Jeremy Lynn pocketed the rest of the men’s titles. Yellowknife’s India Edwards-Loewen claimed the women’s C division title.

The mixed open division — the highest division at the championship — was taken by Edmonton’s Jorge Quintero, making his first trip to Whitehorse.

“My sponsor from Manta told me it would be a nice tournament here, it would be great for me to come, so I came and it’s a great place,” said Quintero. “A lot of people signed up, everybody was excited, everybody has improved from what I hear from previous years. People are going to other cities to play and it’s getting bigger, and that’s what we want.

“I’d love to come back.”

Quintero didn’t drop a game in his three matches. The 31-year-old is originally from Colombia, where he was one of the top players in the country. He used to play and train with Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez, one of the best in the world.

“We were No. 1 and No. 2 back then and he kept going with squash, and I decided to go to school,” said Quintero. “So I stopped squash a little bit but picked it back up a couple years ago.”

Two-time Yukon champ Cameron Webber was the highest finishing Yukoner in the mixed open division, placing third.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

Top results:

Mixed open:

1st Jorge Quintero

2nd Devin Madsen

3rd Cameron Webber

Consolation: Stephen Grundmanis

Men’s A:

1st Jonathan Hawkins

2nd Andrew Goodwin

3rd Denver Styan

Consolation: Dylan Letang

Men’s B:

1st Dominic Henderson

2nd Benjamin Grundmanis

3rd Zale Apramian

Consolation: Mackenzie Cameron

Men’s C:

1st Wilson MacDonald

2nd Ivan Johnson

3rd Kevin Maves

Consolation: Stephan Burdess

Men’s D:

1st Jerremy Lynn

2nd Ravinder Singh

3rd Jim McGeragle

Consolation: Brian Larnder

Women’s open:

1st Lia Johnson

2nd Terri Cairns

3rd Lori Muir

Women’s C:

1st India Edwards-Loewen

2nd Jada Smith-Kwok

3rd Erika Joubert

Consolation: Kennedy Locke-Cairns

Women’s D:

1st Susan Whitty

2nd Sue Stokes

3rd Jeanine Sinclair

Consolation: Gale Payne

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