Barbados’ junior squash stars Meagan Best and Khamal Cumberbatch will headline the 2019 Barbados Junior Open which serves off tomorrow afternoon at the Barbados Squash Club, Marine Garden, Christ Church.
Best and Cumberbatch, the number one seeds are coached by Rhett Cumberbatch and will compete for the very first time in the tournament with hopes of possibly adding the coveted Barbados Junior Open trophy to their list of accolades playing at this level.
Tournament director Shawn Simpson told Barbados Today they are a total of 55 participants competing in divisions ranging from Under-11 to Under-19 in the November 28th to December 1st event.
Organisers have introduced a novice category for the first time this year and Simpson said, “This is for persons who have entered a tournament for the very first time. So, we have a number of persons coming in from our junior programme who would have been playing squash for under a year. And we are getting them to enter the tournament to gain some experience and to gain the confidence to see where they are at.”
Competitors from the British Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United States of America are scheduled to grace the shores of Barbados.
Best and Cumberbatch, who won mixed double gold this year at the XVII Pan Am Junior Squash Championships in Toronto, Canada, will need to get past Chemar Burnham and Jada Smith-Padmore, the reigning Under-19 male and female champions.
The 17-year-old Best a student at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, said while her main focus before returning home was studying she has had time to prepare for the tournament since her return.
The former regional two-time women’s squash champion said she has a plan especially for Smith- Padmore going into this weekend competition.
“It has been a steady journey so far this year. Right now, we are training for the upcoming tournament this weekend so we are going to be looking forward to that. The kids we know that they are training hard and so are we. Just because we are the number one seeds I don’t think we are going to go in there and underestimate anyone. We are going to go in there and try to play our best, but I think for me personally I am focused on the US [United States] Open later on this year,” Best said.
Cumberbatch, also 17-years-old, said he has been training hard in preparation for the Junior Open events both at home and in the United States. A student at Avon Old Farm also located in Connecticut, Cumberbatch assured confidently he is as ready as can be for the tournament.
“I think I am ready for it. I was training hard for it back at school for quite a while on my strength and kind of get more in shape physically,” he said.
“With the youth, they have been training really hard to catch up to our standard and I really am impressed with it.”
As it relates to his strategy particularly when he faces Darian Benn, Cumberbatch said, “Try to work him. I am stronger physically; I am older so using a little experience.”
Also flying the Barbados flag on home soil at this year’s junior open is Phoebe Gittens in the Under-11 and 13 girl’s category and Sumairaa Suleman in the Under-17 ladies. Meanwhile, in the boy’s section there is Noel Clarke in the Under-11’s, Nathan King in the Under-13 and Aden Parris in Under-15.
Cumberbatch’s fellow Avon Old Farm schoolmate, Hutson Dunn is the lone representative from the United States of America and said he is looking forward to playing in the tournament.
“I am really excited to play in the tournament and it is cool how squash can bring you places to play,” said the 15-year-old Dunn from Rhode Islands who will feature in the Under-17 boy’s age group.