Not So “Frozen”: 26th Annual Women’s Senior/Masters Racquetball Championships in Minnesota
For the players attending the 26th annual Women’s Senior/Masters Racquetball Championships, “visit sunny Minnesota this January” was not as crazy a slogan as it sounds! Players arriving in the Twin Cities for the tournament held Jan 16-18, 2015 at the beautiful Fridley Lifetime Fitness Club were greeted by relatively warm weather and blue skies. Lifetime Fitness was a great site for the tournament, with plenty of racquetball courts and facilities including indoor pools, tennis courts, spas, running track, workout rooms and a full service café.
The tournament kicked off Thursday afternoon with a fun doubles event for arriving players, followed by a brief players’ meeting during which the format and rules were explained by Tournament Director John Wilinski and the WSMRA Tournament Committee member Terry Rogers. The fun doubles is a traditional fund-raiser for Racquet for the Cure and this year we raised over $200 through player donations. Door Prizes for the event were donated by Wilson racquetball.
Big changes came to the tournament’s format this year as competitive doubles divisions were added to the tournament. Round-robin play within age groups in both singles and doubles began early Friday morning. When not on the courts, players could enjoy food and drink at the hospitality table, use the club’s amenities or watch the court action as all courts had glass back walls. The back-to-back match schedule meant that there was time for relaxing, shopping at the Mall of America or a trip to one of the many Twin Cities area museums and attractions. Some players who did not get enough action played ping-pong in the players lounge and some even ventured out onto the ice on nearby Moore Lake!
One highlight of the weekend was a visit from Dr. Bud Muehleisen, well known as the “father of racquetball” and a true legend in the sport. “Dr. Bud” graciously spent time mingling with the players, giving some tips and posing for numerous pictures. Shannon Wright and Kathleen Klukas from the United States Racquetball Foundation based in Minneapolis also came by to watch the action and socialize.
Every year it takes many volunteers to make the tournament a success, keep the courts on time, keep the scores and R2 updated, and run the silent auction. In addition to the WSMRA tournament committee of Terry Rogers, Merijean Kelley and Paula Sperling, players Kathy Zasucha, Nidia Funes, Pat Meyer and Carol Gellman provided invaluable assistance when not on the courts. As usual WSMRA photographer extraordinaire Tina Marchie set up the group photo and took pictures and videos all weekend.
A long-time tradition of this tournament is the silent auction, featuring merchandise generously provided by our sponsor Wilson Racquetball, as well as items donated by other organizations and individuals. This year $800 was raised and will be donated to the USAR Collegiate scholarship program and the United States Racquetball Foundation as we pay it forward to help insure the future of our sport.
The traditional Saturday night banquet was held on several of the clubs tennis courts. Arriving players were entertained with lovely live music by guitar player and singer Sergio Rosa. In a short program some of the many people who contributed so much to the success of the tournament were recognized, as well as players who came the farthest (and from warmer climes!)- Marie Gomar from Guatemala and Renee Fish from Florida; and the states with the largest attendance were also recognized: Minnesota had 19 while New York had 7. Mildred Gwinn and Stacy Cato received a special “snowflake” award for the puffiest coats! Tunes for dancing were spun by “DJ John”, revealing another of our Tournament Director’s many talents!
The party did not deter players from their continuing outstanding play on Sunday with championships on the line. A tough weekend of competition was wrapped up by early Sunday afternoon. 45+ Doubles and 55+ Singles were the last divisions to be decided. 45+ doubles was the largest division and in the 6 team playoff #1 seeded team Jean Halahan (NY)/Lynn Fonseca (GA) defeated #2 seed Cindy Tilbury (CA)/Marie Gomar (GT). Cindy then went right back on the court and in a close final match split with Linda Moore (NE) but took the match and the 55+ singles bracket over Linda on total points. Other initial WSMRA doubles champions decided on total points were: Cheryl Jones (MN)/Jessica Kisling (MN) over Carla Phillips (PA)/Vikki Pickard (PA) in 35+; Joleen Price (MN)/Page Kern (MN) over Judy Redding (NY)/Kathy Zasucha (NY) in 55+; and Merijean Kelley (CA)/Nidia Funes (CA) over Paula Sperling(NM)/Carol Gellman (NM) in 65+.
Singles brackets were all decided on total points. In 35 B/C Vikki Pickard (PA) defeated Jessica Kisling (MN); In 45 B/C it was Mary Softing (MN) over Robbie Mack (WI) and in 55 B/C Joanna Nache (NC) took first over Pat Meyer (NY). In 45+ Jean Halahan (NY) did not drop a game and won over Marie Gomar (GT); the same went for Kim Whalen (WI) who went undefeated in taking first over Cheryl Jones (MN). Other singles winners were Stacie Cato (NC) in 40+, Marsha Berry (KY) over Susan Schatz (MN) in 60+; Terry Rogers (NV) over Paula Sperling (NM) in 65+; and Mildred Gwinn (NC) over Marquita Molina (CA) in 70+.
The trial addition of the doubles divisions worked out very well and doubles will definitely be part of this tournament in the future. The success of the weekend was obvious as many players, including many first-timers said they’d be definitely be back for the 2016 tournament. The 27th Annual Tournament will be held January 15-17, 2016 in Tucson, AZ at the Tucson Racquet and Fitness Club. Play will include round-robin singles and doubles in age groups 35 and older. Singles will have open/A and B/C divisions to ensure great competition. You are never out of the draw at this round-robin tournament. You will have fun while making new friends and playing a lot of racquetball. Thanks to all who made the tournament a success, and especially to Terri Graham and Chris Evon of Wilson Racquetball for continued awesome support!
For a link to all results, lots of pictures and information on next year visit our web site www.wsmra.com and like the Women’s Senior/Masters Racquetball Association on Facebook.