The 5280 – Mile High Pro-Am Denver, CO
By: Sarah Warhaftig
WPRO athletes all have their training secrets before tournaments: diet, training and mental work. However, coming to the city that sits one mile above sea level may not have been an easy factor into their plans. The first ever Mile High Pro-Am took place over the weekend of March 8th at the prestigious Denver Athletic Club downtown. Tournament Director Debbie Beldring worked tirelessly to provide a top-notch event that included a full amateur draw in one of the most picturesque cities in the country.
A handful of WPRO players arrived a bit earlier to adjust to the altitude and the speed of the already fast Ektelon Fireball, hoping to gain some advantage over their sea level playing competitors. Cheryl Gudinas said, “I didn’t feel the altitude with my breathing, but needed to slow down the pace of the ball especially on ceiling balls. Next year, I would come out a day earlier, it takes two or three days to really adapt, but once I did adjust I loved it.”
Thursday night’s traditional sponsor doubles paired reining mixed doubles state open champion Kevin Holmes with #9 Jen Saunders out of Canada to take home the title. A fantastic atmosphere to start the event DJ George Coleman kept the crowd going with music all weekend long, and sponsors enjoyed the social atmosphere of the club.
Match play began on Friday with only one upset, as veteran Cheryl Gudinas returned to the WPRO draw and quickly dispatched of rising young star Cristina Amaya out of Colombia in three straight games. Saturday’s quarterfinals had all top seeds advancing with the exception of Krystal Csuk who is having her best season yet defeating Adrienne Fisher.
The most exciting match was between Susy Acosta and Rhonda Rajsich. A similar getting style and fast game had this one going to five with Rajsich squeaking out the victory. Top seed Paola Longoria proved she was on a quest and continues to frustrate her opponents as she defeated Canadian Jen Saunders in three straight.
Saturday night’s semi-finals were standing room only as crafty veteran Kerri Wachtel battled athletic Rajsich in a four game match. A unique matchup, Wachtel gave Rajsich bouts of trouble, but in the end Rajsich pure shooting was too much for Wacthel. Longoria battled it out with Csuk – a hard hitting contest Csuk looked comfortable and was shooting well, but Longoria’s experience and consistency outlasted Csuk and Longoria advanced in three straight.
With every first tournament on the WPRO schedule, the WPRO is extremely thankful for the wonderful sponsors and patrons who made the event happen. The Colorado Racquetball community and players once again stepped forward to make this a successful event. American Motors, the Title Sponsor and family owned by racquetball phenoms Victor, Nancy, Adam and Erika. A special thank you to Layer Cake Marketing and Kimberly Graham whose husband Ralph is a top tournament player in Colorado for providing a wonderful media opportunity for players Rhonda Rajsich and Paola Longoria to make appearances on both ABC and NBC Denver morning shows. Thank you to Subaru, GOSubaru, EAS Nutrition and GrahamGolden technologies.