Written by Scott Sparrow
We knew, on the plane ride back to Seattle, that our trip to San Diego for the Access Youth Academy (AYA) Junior Bronze was a success. In the three seats directly in front of Ms. Kate and myself sat three WESA scholars, exhausted from tournament play with sun-kissed skin from our visit to the San Diego Zoo. They were passed out, sleeping the kind of deep, peaceful sleep reserved for those who have worked hard and played hard, for those who have expended all their energies in pursuit of excellence and fun. Of course, this made for a trying walk through Seatac airport back to the van, but the heavy luggage and heavy legs paled in comparison to the moments of excitement, anticipation, and laughter that accompanied us throughout.
We recently returned from participating in AYA’s annual junior squash tournament, which took place over Easter weekend. AYA is, like us, an urban squash program that was founded in 2006 and has subsequently grown impressively. They were gracious and accommodating hosts and stand as a model for our own future (they are even currently building their own squash center!). I would like to offer a hearty thanks to AYA, and Coach Dave in particular, for what turned out to be a weekend of exciting firsts for WESA.
This trip was the program’s first by plane to a squash tournament. Our three tournament players were Bryan Reyes Melgarejo, Julie Ordos, and Dean Collins. Each scholar was invited based on the combination of their squash ability and competitive spirit, model behavior, and outstanding attendance. As it turns out, they also all happened to be more than accomplished travelers!
We were met in San Diego by a lovely sun, one that had been hiding from us in Seattle for a bit (difficult to believe, I know). With some time to spare before our first match, Ms. Kate, Bryan, Julie, and I grabbed a bite for lunch. Dean, on the other hand, grabbed quite a bit more.
After settling into our hotel we experienced another program first. In her first match of the tournament, Julie persevered through nervousness (it was her first official competitive match!) and, despite losing the first game, bounced back to win in 5 games (11-13, 11-4, 11-3, 9-11, 11-1). Not only was it Julie’s first competitive match and first win, it was also the program’s first match victory outside the state of Washington!
The boys also had a successful tournament outing. Bryan won two out of his first three matches, which earned him a place in the Consolation final--the first Consolation final and the highest individual finish in program history!
Although Dean did not win any matches, he had the toughest draw of the group. This is Dean’s first year with WESA (in fact, he’s still in his first 6 months of squash) and he’s only 9, but because of tournament structure, he had to play in the Boys U13 division. So, Dean was playing boys that were 2-3 years older than him. Nevertheless, Dean maintained his competitive edge throughout and continued to earn praise from spectators impressed with his ability.
The final tournament matches on Sunday ended early, so we managed, through will power and some insider help, to explore the well-known San Diego Zoo.
We saw lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!); we saw baboons and gorillas, an abundance of birds, sleepy koalas (much like our group on the trip back), and hungry elephants. We saw so many majestic creatures, and even got to be some too.
Despite sore and tired bodies, Bryan, Julie, and Dean were troopers, pushing on until we saw around half of the Zoo (it’s a really big zoo!) and it was time to return home.
The program is so proud of the performance of these three in San Diego and Ms. Kate and I are grateful to have had the chance to witness their success first-hand. We are hoping to make these excursions (and match victories) more regular. It was a massive success. Julie even told us that she enjoyed herself so much she didn’t miss her phone (it “was actually quite nice”). High praise indeed!