Story by Kirsten Carlson
Photos by Holly Smedira
Starting in mid-fall the lives of junior squash players, and their parents that come along, become quite crazy, with weekend trips throughout the Northeast, the occasional longer trip out west, and for the top players, trips to international events in England, Scotland, and wherever else they can fit in a tournament. In March though, the madness ends, concluding with the US Junior Closed, a tournament that players take very seriously, as it is their last chance to really show what they can do, until next season.
“Nationals is great,” said Girls Under 19 winner Logan Greer. “One aspect is that you get to see your friends from all around the country. It’s also really stressful though because people put a lot of weight on it. Nationals—because it is at the end of the season—is kind of a representation of your progress during the year, so everyone wants to do well.”
What started out as a rough season for Greer, with a loss in the second round (she had a bye in the first) at the Hunter Lott Junior Championships, ended on a perfect note, a win in the Junior Closed U19 and the No. 1 ranking. Before heading to Yale next year, Greer will cap off her career by representing the US in the World Junior Women’s Team Championships this summer.
Olivia Blatchford, from Brooklyn, is the only other player who has already earned a spot on the Junior Worlds’ team. Though she came up short each time, Blatchford consistently provided Greer with her toughest competition this season. The two met in the quarters at the US Junior Open in December, where Greer won 3-0. They then faced each other in the final of the Frank Millet Junior Championships, which Greer won 3-1. But Blatchford gave Greer all she could handle when they faced each other again in the Junior Closed GU19 finals.
“It was really tight, really back and forth,” said US Squash’s Suzy Schwartz. “ It was awesome, a great match and obviously the highest level of junior squash.”
Greer escaped with a 3-2 win. “Olivia definitely has been my toughest competition all year,” Greer said. “She is a really great player and has gotten better every time I’ve played her.”
Another twosome that met in pivotal matches were BU13 players Sam Conant of Philadelphia and Liam McClintock of Wellesley, Mass. They were kings of the court against everyone they played, usually dominating. But when they met each other, it was a different story.
Conant defeated McClintock 3-1 in the US Junior Open in December, but three months later, McClintock turned the tables and won a close 3-2 final at the Junior Closed. The two play each other very tight and in Conant’s case, with a lot of emotion. Though equally adept at scrambling around the court and chasing down shots, the diminutive McClintock provides sharp contrast to Conant who tends to “let it all hang out.”
Conant and McClintock did not play one another at either the Hunter Lott or Frank Millet. Instead it was a kid from Baltimore who substituted in the final when one of the two was not at a tournament. Michael East lost 3-0 to McClintock in the final of the Frank Millet, and then lost 3-0 to Conant in the final of the Hunter Lott. At the US Junior Closed, he was supported by his home crowd at the Meadow Mill Athletic Club in Baltimore. Three matches without dropping a game took East to the semis where he met Conant again, this time playing him tough before Conant eventually won 3-2.
“The boys’ matches go on and on with just great points,” said Nancy Cushman, owner of Meadow Mill. “All of the finals are always great matches, and the semis too. Michael’s semifinal match was good.”
Another player from Baltimore who pleased the hometown crowd was GU13 winner, Katie Tutrone. Tutrone dropped just one game while knocking out the No. 2 seed, Olivia Fiechter, in the semis, before erasing top-seeded Claudia Regio in a 3-0 final.
“What’s great about Katie winning it in Baltimore is we could make a huge deal of it, as opposed to when a player is off in another city where it is them and their parents,” said Cushman. “The stands were packed. Her parents, her parents’ friends, her whole family was there.”
With her win, Tutrone became Baltimore’s first ever junior national champion, and is part of a junior program that is growing and starting to make an impact at national events. Right there with them are the junior players from Seattle. Three of the four girls’ runners-up were from the Seattle area. The aforementioned Regio in the GU13; GU15 No. 2 seed Vidya Rajan, a quarterfinalist last year, who was stopped by New York’s Amanda Sobhy; and Yarden Odinak, also a No. 2 seed, who fell to Emily Park in the GU17 final. Christopher Jung represented Seattle in the semis of the BU15, but could not make it past eventual winner Gary Power of Connecticut.
Not to be outdone by any junior from anywhere was Todd Harrity. Harrity was the picture of consistency this year, winning the BU17 title at the US Junior Open, the BU19 title at the Hunter Lott and the BU19 crown at the Junior Closed, where he defeated No. 1 seed Chris Callis 3-0. Just 16 years old, he is already ranked No. 1 in the U19, an honor he shares with Episcopal Academy and Merion Cricket Club mate, Greer.
“Todd is probably one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, but at the same time he is very shy,” said Merion Cricket Club Director of Squash, Scott Devoy. “Todd is also mentally very, very strong. He is a competitive guy. He hates losing. He doesn’t show that, but he is one of the most competitive people you will come across, which is why he is good at so many things (cross-country and tennis). Whatever he does, he just wants to be the best. He hates to lose.”
Greer also comes across as shy, but Devoy said she always has a plan in mind as far as what she wants to achieve, whether it be in squash or in school. “They’re both incredibly driven,” added Devoy of his two protégés.
“Her first goal was obviously to make the team going to Hong Kong,” Devoy said. “And then from there she wanted to win the Nationals and finish the year ranked No. 1.”
“It feels awesome. It was really nice to finish my career in junior squash on top and to win a national title,” Greer said. “Junior squash has meant a lot and I’ve grown as a person through it. I started off losing in the first round of a tournament and then losing again in the first round of the consos. I’ve made friends, and they are friends that I will have the rest of my life.”