The Wood River Pickleball Alliance of Ketchum, Idaho, held its annual Sun Valley Pickleball Classic from Friday, September 29, through Sunday, October 1, with registrations surpassing their initial expectations.
A “Wonderful, Wonderful Event”
“We were hoping for 60 people, and we got 138 instead,” he said. “The turnout, the excitement, and the enthusiasm all day long have just been fabulous. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful event.”
A Notable Addition
A notable addition to this year’s tournament was the introduction of a social league, providing a more relaxed platform for players to compete, particularly for those new to tournaments or still in the early stages of learning the sport.
Sponaugle commented, “We had the social (division) for players that have never played in a tournament and are somewhat beginners in the sport.
“The enthusiasm from that group of 16 was just unbelievable. They were nervous, and they were laughing, and they took it seriously while having fun, and that’s the great thing about it.”
Reflecting on her experience in the social division, Libby Johnson of Hailey said, “It was fun learning.” Her partner, Jerry Johnson of Hailey, agreed and said it was a “good learning experience to figure out how it all works” for tournaments.
The tournament boasted 18 distinct divisions, categorized by gender, style (doubles or singles), skill level, and age group.
Noteworthy winners included the wonderfully named Spooky Taft and Jill Pollock, both of Sun Valley, who secured victory in the women’s doubles division for participants with a 3.5 skill level and above, aged 58 and beyond.
“I hope this [continues to be] a success in the future,” Taft said. “It was really great fun. We were happy to do it.”
A Chilly Start
Pollock pointed out how cold it was to begin with: “It was 28 degrees when we first got (to the tournament),” Pollock said. “[However] Gloves, hats, leggings, everything just peeled off with each match as it got a little warmer. My nerves had settled after the first match. It was just fun.”
Despite the chilly start, Taft and Pollock, who have been engaged in pickleball for nearly a decade in the valley, were pleased with the outcome of the event. Taft expressed hope for continued success in the future, emphasizing the enjoyable nature of the competition.
An Intense Matchup
The first day concluded with an intense matchup featuring Ryan Nielson of Hailey and Sponaugle in the men’s singles 4.5 skill level division.
After a challenging two-game faceoff, Nielson emerged victorious. Reflecting on the match, he said, “(Lee) beat me in the first round-robin set of matches.
“Maybe he was a little tired out, and I had a little bit more endurance for the end, and that worked well for me.
Nielson expressed his gratitude for participating in the tournament, saying, “It’s just a really fun community,” Nielson said.
“I feel so lucky to live here and have met a ton of people this summer because of pickleball. It’s just really fun to celebrate the season with a lot of friends and play in this great weather.”
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