A strong Nairn contingent accompanied by smaller numbers of Inverness and Thurso players competed well at the weekend’s Scottish National Junior Championships, held at Aberdeen Squash and Rackets Club. With veterans like Ewan Hearns showing well in the Boys Under 19s (4th), and very powerful and sustained excellence from Highlanders Kirsty Lobban, Jamie Henderson, and Michael and Martin Ross in the parallel Under-23 competition, the onus was on the younger north players to try to live up to this strong tradition. And indeed the Highland contingent brought themselves and their clubs great credit.
Top performance came from Under 15 National Champion Alasdair Prott (Inverness), who comfortably outplayed Andrew Chrumka (Grange), Andrew Glen of Glasgow, before seeing off the challenges of Calum Carswell (Strathgryffe) and Daniel O’Sullivan (Giffnock). Winning the final 11-9, 11-6, 11-2, Al has now successfully won and defended national titles over the last 6 seasons, and is in preparation for the inevitable national call-ups in the coming months.
Katie Gregson-MacLeod (Inverness) claimed 2nd place in the Girls’ Under 15 competition, defeating 3 opponents on the Saturday, and then long-term rival Maddie Orr of Crieff 3-1 to come in behind Orla Young of Newlands, who played superbly all weekend.
Competition proved fierce for Ross Mowat (Thurso) at Under 19, and both Harry Jack (Nairn) and Fraser Steven (Thurso) at Under 17. Despite the rapid progress of all 3 in recent times, each found famine or feast over the weekend as they stepped up an age group. Further north medals were hard to come by. Nairn’s group under Dave Clem and Garry McKay, as ever, showed fight and developing skill. At Under-15, the improving Lewis Barnard began to make waves with some strong displays, notably against Ryan Milne of Aberdeen, before defeating Newlands’ Gregor Gerry 3-0 to finish just outside the top 10. The less experienced Lewis MacLennan had a couple of great wins, amongst his sequence of 3-2 matches, to finish the tournament just below his namesake.
At Under 13, Ben Booker-Milburn and Will Jack both started with good wins over Duncan Hegarty of Dunblane, but couldn’t sustain their momentum, Will unable to cope with the accuracy of Crieff’s Kai Brown, and Ben losing a tough match against Colinton’s Steven Hill. Ben Barron got revenge, however, for the Nairn club, by claiming a 3-1 win over Steven later in the weekend. Young Ross Donachie pushed Bridge of Allan’s Alastair Findlay in a long match, and Struan Donald had good wins over Peter Macari of Western and Duncan Hegarty. Top Nairn junior Ben Barron battled away well to achieve a top 10 finish come Sunday afternoon.
And Inverness’ Erin Jones showed real determination in her first National Championships at Under 13, growing in confidence. Her spirit, and that of the other young Highlanders careering about the Aberdeen squash courts this weekend, were summed up well by Coach Malcolm MacKay: “Playing with a smile on your face, and keeping on going – that’s the secret. They’ll be back.”
Link to official Scottish Squash event report available here