2016 Junior National Champions

18 & Under Champs: Ricky Evans & April Larson

28th Annual BEF Junior Nationals Concludes a Year of Records, Repeats and Remembrance

Photos Courtesy of JP Parmentier & Billiard Education Foundation, Story by Earl Munson

On July 13th – 16th, 2016 the Billiard Education Foundation (BEF) proudly held its 28th Annual Junior National 9-Ball Championships with its largest field of juniors in history. The record breaking event was held at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center just outside of the windy city of Chicago, Illinois. For the third year in a row top juniors from each state made their yearly journey to this year’s most prestigious of all U.S. junior tournaments in which the venue was hosted alongside the 2016 Billiard Congress of America (BCA) Billiard & Home Leisure Expo.

2016 Junior National 9-Ball Championships

2016 Junior National 9-Ball Championships

This year’s field boasted 193 players from 39 qualifying events in 28 different states. The four participating divisions included 18 & Under Boys (18UB), 18 & Under Girls (18UG), 14 & Under Boys (14UB) and 14 & Under Girls (14UG). This event is the only opportunity for U.S. billiard student-athletes to qualify to compete at the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) World Junior 9-Ball Championships, as well as for Team USA at the annual Atlantic Challenge Cup (ACC).

This year’s junior nationals kicked off with its highly anticipated annual Adult-Youth Scotch Doubles tournament directed by Mel and Tammy Jo Leonard the night before on Tuesday, July 12th. This year drew a record-breaking 93 teams participating. This doubles event gives the parents and adults the chance to showcase their skills in the fun-filled night which even included a few pro’s participating. Players officially checked in the morning of Wednesday, July 13th where they were treated with complimentary photo booth pics with Hall-of-Fame professionals “The Black Widow” Jeanette Lee and “The Scorpion” Johnny Archer.

2016 Junior National 9-Ball Championships

2016 Junior National 9-Ball Championships

With the largest field ever came necessary trial changes that were implemented to the traditional BEF Junior National format, which included going to a pro style format of preliminary double elimination brackets qualifying to a seeded single elimination finals bracket. The four divisions 18UB, 14UB, 18UG, and 14UG played on 128, 64, 32 and 32 double elimination brackets respectively. From these brackets the top 25% qualified from each division to single elimination brackets in which the winners were seeded and the one-loss side was blind drawn. Changes were also made to shorter races which were reviewed and determined by Tournament director Earl Munson, “After our evaluations longer races may be expected at next year’s 2017 BEF Junior Nationals based on table availability and participating player fields.”

Another change to this year’s Junior Nationals was the banquet night which was held on the third night of the tournament, Friday July 15th instead of the traditional first night. This welcomed improvement was a big hit as the banquet hall was a buzz of excitement as players, family members, pros, sponsors, and BEF staff and volunteers were in attendance for a great meal, remembrance, awards and honors.

Lindenwood University presents the Brendan Crockett Character Award

Lindenwood University presents the Brendan Crockett Character Award

A tearful audience gave remembrance by a watching a presentation of a touching collection of pictures of fellow BEF junior player, the late Brendan Crockett, playing in past BEF Junior Nationals and WPA World Junior events. Executive Director, Samm Diep-Vidal read a letter from the Crockett family, Mark Wilson of Lindenwood University, Brendan’s former coach, and 2002 BCA Junior National Champion Beau Runningen, a close friend of the Crocketts, both gave tearful speeches remembering the skilled billiard prodigy and honored him by awarding the newly renamed Brendan Crockett Character Awards.

2016 Brendan Crockett Character Award Recipients:

18 & Under Boys Andy Poutry, age 17 Ayer, Massechusetts
18 & Under Girls Tory Conley, age 15 Phoenix, Arizona
14 & Under Boys Austin Summers, age 14 Metropolis, Illinois
14 & Under Girls Lana Keith, age 10 Dyersburg, Tennessee
2016 Academic All-American award recipients

2016 Academic All-American award recipients

Special Guest Speaker at the banquet this year was “The Scorpion” Johnny Archer. He took a moment to share his life story and powerful message of perseverance. As always Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman made his 23rd appearance at the junior nationals gave out his Artistic Pool awards to this year’s champions. (Results announced separately and posted on BEF website.)

The banquet night rounded off with an astounding record of BEF Academic All-American (AAA) Awards presented. Of the 193 player field, an incredible 42% of this year’s participants (that’s 81 players!) earned school GPA’s of 3.5 or better to receive this award!  The sport of billiards is definitely attracting, creating, and maintaining academic excellence! Of those 81 student-athletes, 20 of them had a perfect 4.0 GPA. (Complete list of recipients announced separately and posted on BEF website.)

Kamui continued its Quest for Excellence program this year offering even more to its recipients. (Complete details announced separately and posted on BEF website.)

2016 Kamui Quest for Excellence Award Receipients

2016 Kamui Quest for Excellence Award Receipients

2016 Kamui Quest for Excellence Recipients:

Taylor Hansen, age 17 Mankato, Minnesota
Aryana Lynch, age 13 Allen, Texas
Karsyn Terry, age 17 Chicago, Illinois
Justin Toye, age 15 Bayville, New Jersey

Four fun door prizes were drawn throughout the evening:

Brianna LaRatta 16×20 Portrait of Favorite Pool Player (retail value $120) Courtesy of Tony Fox Photography
Tessa Eickholt $50 Amazon Gift Card Courtesy of International Billiards (Makers of the BRAD Scuffer)
Julie Bennett $50 Amazon Gift Card Courtesy of Pool & Billiard Magazine
Tiffany Johnson Custom UTG Jersey (retail value $80) Courtesy of Ultimate Team Gear

And, the banquet concluded with two lucky grand prize recipients:

Bryan Rodriguez Edinburg, Texas J. Pechauer Custom Cue & Case (retail value $1,100)
Sandra E. Meece Seneca, South Carolina 9’ Diamond ProAm pool table (retail value $7,000)

Without a doubt match play all week was exciting and intense as all players vied to make it to their respective finals single-elimination brackets. The finals play for all divisions was held on Saturday July 16th. In an effort to stay more aligned with the WPA World events and the Olympics, the BEF awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze medals to the top four finishers of each division, in lieu of the past trophies. All medalists in the 18UB, 18UG and 14UB divisions qualified for the 2016 WPA World Junior 9-Ball Championships November 16-20 in Shanghai, China, along with the gold and silver medalists from the 14UG division.

All BEF Junior National participants also qualify to be selected as potential nominees for the Atlantic Challenge Cup Team USA at the 2017 event being held in Europe next year. The future is very bright for our BEF junior program members as there are now more than ever before, so many high level competitive opportunities at the state, national, and international level.

With the 18UG races shortened this year, it was very tense as the 2015 defending champion and 2015/2016 ACC Team USA member April “The Grinder” Larson from Bloomington, MN was knocked over to the one loss side of the preliminary bracket by fellow ACC Team USA teammate Emily Herpel from Freehold, NY. Larson nick-named “The Grinder” for a reason had fellow 2016 ACC Team USA members Serena Black from Warrensburg, IL & Sierra Reams from Richmond, VA on the one loss side standing in her way in which she respectively knocked out of the tournament.

18 & Under Champs: Ricky Evans & April Larson

18 & Under Champs: Ricky Evans & April Larson

In the first match on the finals board Kaylee McIntosh, a very skilled player from Tampa Bay Florida, almost ended Larson’s bid to repeat her title taking her hill-hill before narrowly losing the final game moving Larson on to eventually match up with her 2015 ACC Team USA teammate Taylor Hansen from Mankato, MN in a match-up that ended with a convincing score of 5-2 and Larson moving on to eventually face fellow 2015 Worlds Team USA member Michelle Jiang in the finals. In the on-the-edge of your seat hill-hill match for the Gold Medal, Larson won 7-6 as she once again retained her 18UG girl’s title as the best in the U.S. with now five consecutive BEF Junior Nationals titles.

In the 14UG division it was just as intense, as the 2015 14UG Champion Ashley Fullerton from Lake Park, MN showed she too has what it takes to be a repeat champion when she dug deep after being down in a few matches to take it all the way to her 2nd BEF title in a row. Fullerton went all the way to the winners seeded finalist bracket where she ground down Tiana Jiang from Harvard, MA in the first round to advance her to the second round.

In the second round, Fullerton kept amazingly calm even when she was down in the match 4-1 against up and comer Amanda Campbell from Arvada, CO. Fullerton eventually took Campbell to hill-hill where she managed the win 5-4 moving her to the finals with the very quiet but skilled Vivian Liu from Harvard, MA. The back and forth score of Fullerton and Liu put the audience and especially the parents on pins and needles as the score once again wound up to 6-6 (hill-hill) with Ashley Fullerton once again having the nerves to put her over the top for the Gold Medal and her second 14UG consecutive title. Vivian Liu took the Silver Medal with both her and Fullerton qualifying for China out of the 14UG division. Amanda Campbell and Aryana Lynch from Allen, TX both played very well with both taking the 14UG Bronze Medals home.

Title of 18UB champ was up for grabs as reigning champ Chris Robinson aged out. In 2014, Ricky Evans, from St. Peters, MO took home the 14UB championship title while older brother took the 18UB title in the same year. Ricky has since looked to do what his brother has done and win the 18UB division as well. Having moved up to the 18UB division after turning 15 this year he finally got his chance to prove himself. He firmly set his sights on winning the 18UB division this year and accomplished his goal.

2016 JNC Top 16

2016 JNC Top 16

Even when Evans was down in one of his matches he would simply not show it. He fought his way through winning all his matches putting him in the winners seeded side of the 18UB finals single elimination bracket. In the first round Evans defeated Brandon VanOverbeke from Marshall, MN 7-4 sliding him eastward on the bracket to face Jorden Burden from Jacksonville, FL in which Evans once again closed the match 7-4. In the third round Evans kept Travis Southard from Reidsville, NC from moving closer to the finals and handed Southard a Bronze Medal for his efforts. Evan Swett from Wichita, KS also earned the Bronze Medal for his performance having been defeated by Nathan Diederich. Ricky Evans is no stranger to playing in a high pressure match and he quickly dispatched Nathan Diederich from Victorville, CA with a crushing loss 9-0 but still earning Diederich a very respectable Silver Medal for his fine over-all tournament performance. Ricky Evans has earned his first Gold Medal since moving up only this year to the 18UB bracket earning his second BEF Junior National Title in both the 14UB & now the 18UB. Ricky Evans, Nathan Diederich, Evan Swett, and Travis Southard will qualify for the WPA World Junior event held in China this November.

2016 JNC 4 Winners: Nathan Childress, Ricky Evans, April Larson, Ashley Fullerton

2016 JNC 4 Winners: Nathan Childress, Ricky Evans, April Larson, Ashley Fullerton

Rounding out the divisions with the 14UB’s it would be another player defending his title in the name of Nathan Childress from North Chesterfield, VA. Childress showed his skills and determination by making the final 16 cut in the 14UB by winning all his matches in the preliminary bracket seeding him on the winner final bracket to face the 7 -time BEF Junior National contender Eric Roberts from Crossville, TN. Roberts took Childress hill-hill with Childress edging out a close win 5-4 to move him onward to the 2nd round to face Bryan Rodriguez from Edinburg, TX. Rodriguez tried to slow Childress down but came up short losing 5-2. In the 3rd round Childress rolled past Kaiden Hunkins from Waukesha, WI 5-1 earning Hunkins the Bronze Medal, not too shabby for competing with a broken arm. Joey Tate from Lake Villa, IL also claimed a Bronze Medal after he was defeated 5-2 in the 3rd round by Mahkeal Parris from Kingshill, Virgin Islands. Parris and Childress faced off in the finals with Childress having the psychological edge having been there the prior year and it was evident as Childress defeated Parris 7-4 earning him back-to-back BEF Junior National titles in the 14UB division. Parris proudly took the Silver Medal back home to the Virgin Islands with his fine overall performance.  All four 14UB competitors have qualified for Junior Worlds in China including: Nathan Childress and Kaiden Hunkins being their second visit to China, Mahkeal Parris and Joey Tate with their first.

TOP FINISHERS FROM ALL DIVISIONS:

GOLD MEDALS 18UB Ricky Evans, 15 (St Peters, MO) Custom BEF Gold Medal

$1,000 Academic Scholarship to 18U divisions

$500 Academic Scholarship to 14U divisions

Custom Engraved Delta-13 Rack

Dr. Dave’s Illustrated Principles of Pool & Billiards Book

Bullseye Billiard Set

Extendable Bridge Head

18UG April Larson, 16 (Bloomington, MN)
14UB Nathan Childress, 13 (N. Chesterfield, VA)
14UG Ashley Fullerton, 13 (Lake Park, MN)
SILVER MEDALS 18UB Nathan Diederich, 17 (Victorville, CA) Custom BEF Silver Medal

Dr. Dave’s Illustrated Principles Video Encyclopedia

Bullseye Billiard Set

Extendable Bridge Head

18UG Michelle Jiang, 16 (Harvard, MA)
14UB Mahkeal Parris, 14 (Kingshill, Virgin Islands)
14UG Vivian Liu, 13 (Harvard, MA)
BRONZE MEDALS 18UB Travis Southard, 17 (Reidsville, NC)

Evan Swett, 16 (Wichita, KS)

Custom BEF Bronze Medal

Dr. Dave’s Illustrated Principles Video Encyclopedia

Bullseye Billiard Set

18UG Hailey Fullerton, 16 (Lake Park, MN)

Taylor Hansen, 17 (Mankato, MN)

14UB Kaiden Hunkins, 14 (Waukesha, WI)

Joey Tate, 11 (Lake Villa, IL)

14UG Amanda Campbell, 12 (Arvada, CO)

Aryana Lynch, 13 (Allen, TX)

The Billiard Education Foundation proudly recognizes the industry leaders who helped make this year’s event possible. Event Sponsor: Billiard Congress of America. Official Table: Diamond Billiard Products. Official Cloth: Simonis. Official Balls: Aramith. Official Tip Sponsor: Kamui. Official Jersey: Ultimate Team Gear. Jersey Sponsors: Kamui, Masters, Tiger, PoolDawg, Presidential Billiards and BRAD Scuffer. Official Goody Bag Sponsor: Kamui. Official Media Sponsors: Pool & Billiard Magazine, Professor Q Ball, Billiards Digest and AzBilliards.com.

BEF also gives special thanks to the individuals who give countless hours during this week and throughout the year to help make this event happen: Tammy Jo Leonard (Assistant National Director), Earl Munson (Junior Nationals Tournament Director), Rick Doner (Head Referee), Justin Ballou (Assistant Head Referee), John Taylor, (National Senior Referee), Melvin Leonard (National Senior Referee), Angie Williams (National Referee), Roger Garnsey (Volunteer), “Dr. Cue” Tom Rossman (Junior Artistic Pool Championship Director), Johnny Archer (Guest Speaker), Ra Hanna & Beau Runningen for providing live streaming/scoring/brackets through On The Wire Creative Media, Angel Levine, Jim & Spencer Ladin and the Wolford Family.

About the Billiard Education Foundation (BEF)

The BEF was formed in 1993 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity committed to promoting a lifelong love of pool and building the next generation of players through youth programs and academic scholarships. Visit billiardeducation.org or call (303) 926-1039 to learn more about junior billiard programs in your area.

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