Pickle ball kindles school spirit

Mattie Groninger

Jackson Sandusky and Jessica Sourbeer, Staff Writer

Pickle ball is not just a game at Upper St. Clair High School. It is a full-blown sport. Every year the Kids Helping Kids foundation, Mr. Shawn Morton, and Mr. Tim Robbins organize a pickle ball tournament in the gym. It is held on the last day of school for seniors. The cost is $20 per team, and all profits go to the Kids Helping Kids foundation. This year, there was a record amount of students signed up, almost half of the school. More importantly, more money was raised for the Kids Helping Kids Foundation than ever before.

Finding a partner is part of the fun. Junior Lauren Hamel commented, “Leah [Kern] and I were partners last year, so she asked me to do it again this year and I said sure!”

Picking partners is a combination of choosing a friend and also someone that will give the team a good chance of reaching its full potential. Lauren Hamel added, “She’s pretty athletic and so am I, so I think we can go pretty far.”

Because the tournament was so big, changes had to be made. This year, teams had to sign-up one week before the start of the tournament. Also, premium seating was available for $1 in the bleachers right next to the court. Additionally, a bracket was set-up by the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes similar to NCAA March Madness brackets. A TV was outside of the gym so teams could see when they were playing and who they were playing. Also, anybody could predict their own bracket online and compete with other people to see who could pick the best bracket.

Junior Geet Punjabi said, “Our first tough matchup is [Gunnar] Lund and [Matt] Salerno; if we beat them hopefully we’ll see the #1 seed in the championship.”

Unfortunately for Geet, there were a lot of upsets in the tournament this year, which made the matchups a lot more interesting.

Mr. Morton and Mr. Robbins ranked the top 20 teams, and then everybody else was ranked randomly so that two good teams would not play each other in the first round. The games were played to 11, and the tournament was single elimination. Basically, making it to the championship was unlikely for every team because the games were so short and single elimination, so anything could happen.

This year was home to some of the biggest upsets in tournament history. The #1 seed Zach Nahorski and Scott Russell and #2 seed Geet Punjabi and Chris Adamo went down in the early rounds, paving the road for the underdog sophomores Darius Radfar and Thomas Vissman, who made it to the championship game.

They were met by former champion Fernando Escribens and his partner John Benhart. Unfortunately, the game was not very close. Escribens and Benhart won the game easily and took home the 2015 pickle ball boys doubles championship.

The girls doubles tournament was very close. A lot of good teams made runs at the championship, including Tommie and Sammie Lackner and Emma Hasco and Maddy Rocks. Ultimately, it was Charlotte Madson and Ally Steve who were crowned champions of the girls doubles tournament.

Overall, the pickle ball tournament was big success this year. A significant amount of money was raised for the Kids Helping Kids foundation. Additionally, school spirit was at an all time high and hundreds of kids got exercise playing a lifetime activity. Hopefully, next year the high school will be able to top what they did this year.