Meagan Best, the reigning two time Barbados and Caribbean Girls Under-15 squash champion sensationally won the GU-15 title at the prestigious 2016 Canadian Junior Squash Open that was held from December 10-13th at the White Oaks Club, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada.
After finishing in seventh place in December 2015 in the same age group, Best showed phenomenal improvement in 2016, retaining her local and Caribbean junior titles, as well as becoming the youngest ever winner of both the Barbados and Caribbean senior individual squash titles.
In Canada, the powerfully built Best was seeded at #2, and swept through her side of the GU-15 draw like a hot knife through butter and had dropped only one game in her first four matches to reach the final. She won her GU-15 semi-final against Canadian Sarah Cao in straight games 11-4, 11-7, 11-4, and in the GU-15 final she faced another Canadian, Lucia Bicknell, the #3/4 seed, who upset the top seeded American, Lucie Stefanon in three straight games.
Best would have been confident going into this last encounter, however, as she had defeated Bicknell 3-0 in the 2015 championships on her way to finishing in 7th place, and so it proved. Best was in complete control throughout and won easily, cruising past Bicknell in three straight games 11-4, 11-2, 11-1, to claim the first Canadian junior title ever by a Barbadian player at the age of 14 years and 7 months!
A total of 283 athletes from 21 different countries, including a total of 12 junior players from Barbados, competed in the U-13, -15, -17 and -19 age groups. Barbadians Amanda Haywood and Chelsie Samuel also played on the final day, in the GU-17 and GU-15 age groups respectively.
Haywood is the reigning two time Caribbean U-17 champion, but was only seeded in the #9/12 bracket but did well to improve on her seeding to reach the last eight, before losing twice to higher seeded opponents – first going down 0-3 to the #3/4 seed Amita Gondi (USA), and then falling 2-3 to Mariam Mansoor (CAN) in a closely fought encounter. Haywood took on another Canadian #5/8 seed, Charlotte Orcutt, to determine 7th place.
In addition to the above mentioned Barbadians, ten other local juniors took part in this year’s event in Canada, with Darien Benn, Aidan Parris and Alex Stewart competing in the BU-13 age group; with Sumairaa Suleman (GU-13); Kemar Lord (BU-15); Jada Smith-Padmore, Jodi Smith-Padmore, Chelsie Samuel (GU-15); Chemar Burnham (BU-17) and Zachary Proverbs-Harris (BU-19) all gaining valuable experience from the higher level of competition.
Most of the juniors then moved on to play in the world-class US Junior Squash Open Championships at Yale University, New Haven, CT from the 17th-20th Dec 2016. The Championships registered 880 participants world-wide including 11 Juniors from Barbados.
Again, Meagan give it her best to claim the GU-15 3rd place after defeating Malak Kamal 3-2 in the quarter finals but failed to advance to the finals after being defeated by US #1 seed Marina Stefanoni 3-0. Khamal Cumberbatch finished 7/8 in the BU-15 category.
Congratulations are in order for Meagan Best for her outstanding 2016 performances. With her achievements she was presented the Minister’s Award, Emerging Athlete Award and a Female Junior Sports Person trophy at the National Sports Council’s Annual award ceremony. In addition, she received the BOA’s 2016 Junior Female Athlete of the Year Award. Amanda Haywood also received a BOA 2016 award for Outstanding Junior Athlete.