Best, Cumberbatch star in squash
There was plenty of exciting squash action on the final day of the Sagicor General Junior National Squash Championships at the Barbados Squash Club, Marine Gardens yesterday with excellent performances from the participants in eight different age groups. The top seeds all prevailed with last year’s Under-15 Caribbean champions, Meagan Best and Khamal Cumberbatch, winning two national titles each.
The 2016 Caribbean and Canadian U-15 champion Best, comfortably defeated the improving Jodi Smith-Padmore in the Girls U-19 age group 11-1, 11-4, 11-3 and then returned later in the afternoon to defeat her perennial rival Amanda Haywood in the U-19 final in three exciting games to claim her first national U-19 title and her ninth national championship title in all, after winning the mixed U-15 age group title the previous day.
This U-19 final was much more competitive than Best’s straight games victory over Haywood in the senior national ladies final held a month ago and after fighting back from an 8-10 deficit in the first game the diminutive Haywood forced that game to a 10-all tie break and briefly led 12-11, just a point away from snatching the first game, before Best regained her composure and won the next three rallies to take this crucial first game 14-12.
This proved to be a decisive advantage as Best never trailed again in the match and won 14-12, 11-6, 11-4 over her rival, who is the two-time defending Caribbean U-17 champion and a six-time former national age group champion herself. The U-19 third place match was contested by 15-year-old twin sisters Jada and Jodi Smith-Padmore with Jada once again coming out on top in four games 11-3, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7 in a very close and exciting match. The mixed U-15 third place went to Sumairaa Suleman who defeated Ryan Archer 11-6, 11-6, 11-3.
The match-up between the 2016 Caribbean U-15 champion Khamal Cumberbatch, who is currently studying overseas at high school in the USA, and the left handed Zachary Proverbs-Harris in the U-19 final was not as close, as Cumberbatch never allowed his older and taller opponent to settle. He won easily 11-5, 11-5, 11-6 to claim his 12th national age group championship after winning the mixed U-17 age group title the day before. The U-19 third place match was won by Chemar Burnham by default when his opponent, Joshua Seale withdrew with a stomach ailment. Burnham also placed third in the mixed U-17 age group by defeating Jada Smith-Padmore in four games 11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 11-4.The younger age groups were just as exciting as the reigning U-11 Caribbean champion, Alex Stewart, was too strong for the #2 seed, Zishan Motara, in the U-11 final and won 11-1, 11-2, 11-2. Jordan Greig defeated Kimani Taitt 11-5, 11-8, 11-9 to finish third. Nathan King won the U-11 consolation plate by defeating Theodore Hagley three games to love. Darien Benn then played Alex Stewart in the U-13 final and won in impressive fashion 11-5, 11-3, 11-6 in a high quality squash match. Left-handed Aidan Parris defeated Zishan Motara 11-1, 11-8, 11-2 to finish third in this age group. Nathan King also won the U-13 consolation plate by defeating Ashton Gibbs by three games to love. The U-13 age group was won by 2016 U-13 Caribbean champion Sumairaa Suleman who defeated Rebekah Nichols 11-2, 11-5, 11-3 while in the U-11 age group Nichols defeated Phoebe Gittens 11-1, 11-4, 11-2 to finish first in this round robin with Laea Blakeley in second place and Gittens in third position.
At the presentation ceremony that followed the last final, Alison Smith-Padmore, the newly elected president of the Barbados Squash Association laid out some of the BSA’s vision and plans to increase the profile of squash in Barbados, while Roger Spencer, assistant vice-president (marketing) of Sagicor General Insurance, pledged support for this event for another year and congratulated the tournament participants and complimented the players for their excellent performances over the three days of competition. Darien Benn and Jada Smith-Padmore were awarded trophies for being the Most Improved in the competition while the Richard Walcott Sportsmanship Award was awarded to Sumairaa Suleman.