IT’S proving a very successful year for Sussex squash and racketball.
Earlier this year, the Sussex men’s team, comprising Tim Vail (Lee-on-the-Solent), Brandon Hanley (Middleton Sports Club), Steve Wykes (Chichester Squash Club), Ben Hutton (Corals Squash Club) and Steve Wall (Chichester Squash Club) became national inter-county racketball champions for the third year in a row, as reported in the Observer.
It was a first time such a treble had been achieved in the competition’s history. Sussex beat Dorset and Surrey at finals weekend on their way to completing their victory.
Over the May bank holiday weekend, Sussex men achieved their second piece of history in a matter of months.
No county has ever won the double of the men’s squash and racketball titles until this year. A number of the eight premier counties present had slightly-depleted squads because of representing their country or attending other tournaments around the world, and Sussex were missing county stalwart Tim Garner through injury.
This reflects how incredibly strong the event has become in recent years, with current internationals and professional players scattered throughout the teams.
Sussex were one of the teams to beat on paper and they didn’t disappoint. The team, consisting of Oliver Pett (Lee), Vail (Lee), Wykes (Chichester), Hanley (Middleton) and Miles Jenkins (Chichester Squash Club) made a statement of intent with strong wins versus Middlesex and Essex in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.
Hanley, a teacher at Westbourne House School, said: “We were expected to win on paper but were fully aware of the threat each side posed. It was good to come through the matches unscathed with plenty left for the next day.”
Yorkshire stood between Sussex and a piece of a history and they knew it would be the toughest game.
Good wins from Pett and Wykes set the match up for Sussex but after a disappointing result for Jenkins and a less-than-energetic one from Hanley, it was left to experienced campaigner and captain Vail to win the all-important third string to secure the title for Sussex.
Vail, a Sussex legend, said: “We have picked from virtually the same squad of players for both squash and racketball for a few years now so it was really nice for us to achieve this together.
“It has been quite a few years since we last won the squash title and to do it in the same year as the racketball has just made it extra special for this team.”
The year could have been even sweeter with an over-35 team national title but Sussex lost in the final to a strong Surrey outfit.
Sussex squash and racketball are clearly doing very well at elite level but this will only continue with the continued progress of current county and national juniors and the development of grass-roots squash.
If you wish to give squash or racketball a try, please visit www.sussexsquash.org.uk to find your nearest club.
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