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 firstname.lastname@example.org
1st Jorge Quintero
2nd Devin Madsen
3rd Cameron Webber
Consolation: Stephen Grundmanis
1st Jonathan Hawkins
2nd Andrew Goodwin
3rd Denver Styan
Consolation: Dylan Letang
1st Dominic Henderson
2nd Benjamin Grundmanis
3rd Zale Apramian
Consolation: Mackenzie Cameron
1st Wilson MacDonald
2nd Ivan Johnson
3rd Kevin Maves
Consolation: Stephan Burdess
1st Jerremy Lynn
2nd Ravinder Singh
3rd Jim McGeragle
Consolation: Brian Larnder
1st Lia Johnson
2nd Terri Cairns
3rd Lori Muir
1st India Edwards-Loewen
2nd Jada Smith-Kwok
3rd Erika Joubert
Consolation: Kennedy Locke-Cairns
1st Susan Whitty
2nd Sue Stokes
3rd Jeanine Sinclair
Consolation: Gale Payne