Kaiserslautern claimed the first-place team trophy and swept the top spots in nearly all major divisions of the U.S. Forces, Europe Racquetball Championship held Feb. 12 and 13 in Baumholder.
“We were fortunate to have seven talented, but more importantly, very dedicated players represent our team,” said Mike Bowers, the Kaiserslautern team captain whose squad was sponsored by the 415th Base Support Battalion.
“There are arguably better racquetball players who could have played, but didn’t. You can’t win, if you don’t show up,” said Bowers.
Kaiserslautern’s individual tally included first place in six of 10 categories, four second-place, two third- and a fourth-place finish to earn top team honors ahead of Baumholder and Spangdahlem.
Tammie Milkes, 415th BSB, won the Women’s Open Division after finishing second last year. Kim Birdsong, 415th BSB, garnered third place.
Milkes also captured first in the women’s 30-Plus division and fourth in the Men’s C Division. Birdsong was runner-up in the women’s 29-and-under Division after falling 2-15, 3-15 to Baumholder’s Andrea Lehman.
As it always is with the Milkes, it was a family affair. Jeff Milkes, Baumholder, defeated David Boyd, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, 15-2, 15-4, to win the Men’s B Division.
Christopher Milkes, 14, won the Novice Division by defeating Mark Denniston, Baumholder, 15-7, 9-15, 11-10.
“We don’t have the problem of racquetball getting in the way of our family time,” said T. Milkes. “Racquetball is incorporated into a lot of our free time. Our oldest son who attends the University of Oregon plays on their racquetball team. Even our 8-year-old gets in the courts and takes a swing now and then.”
Bowers is taking a swing at nearly a decade of 40-plus Division titles winning his eighth title in as many years, this time against newcomer Vince Schiltz, Ramstein. Scores were 15-12, 15-5.
Bowers is also the Men’s Open champion after getting by his Kaiserslautern teammate Curtis Morgan, Army Priority Air Transport 15-9, 15-9.
“I knew Bowers wasn’t playing the best I’ve seen him play and thought I had a chance,” said Morgan. “However, as it always seems to be with the old man, he put together a solid performance and did what he needed to win.”
Morgan fared better in the 35-39 Division, where he has dominated the past three years. He beat Jose Valerio, Baumholder, 15-7, 15-4. Boyd took third place.
Jason Ille, Miesau, won the Men’s C Division over Andre Chun, Illesheim, 15-6, 15-9, after nearly a year away from the sport. He found himself outmatched in the 34 and under Division, going down 15-7, 15-0, to Spangdahlem’s Robert Varkonyi who is a veteran of the European tour.
Other KMC participants who placed were Margario Castanon, who took third in the Men’s B and fourth in the 40-plus Divisions.
Ramstein’s Tony Tingley finished fourth in the Men’s Open, and Schiltz was that division’s consolation winner.
“The team promised they were going to bring home the gold, and they did,” said Gerd Backhaus, 415th BSB Fitness Coordinator.
For those who missed this opportunity to play tournament racquetball in the KMC, Backhaus is sponsoring a tournament April 9 and 10 at the Kleber Fitness Center.
“We are especially looking for novice and other lower-skill-level players. Racquetball is one of the lifetime sports, but to enjoy those fitness benefits, you gotta come out and play,” said Backhaus.
Nearly 40 players throughout Germany and Italy competed in the first of two military racquetball championships on tap this year. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe championship is slated for May 7 and 8 at Ramstein.
(Courtesy of the 415th BSB Public Affairs Office)