***image1***Organizers of the U.S. Forces Europe Racquetball Championships did not know the players who signed up from Kaiserslautern.
They do now.
KMC four-man team garnered three gold medals and a bronze in the tournament held Feb. 7 in the Kessler Fitness Center, Schweinfurt, Germany. That equated to a sweep of the three men’s divisions.
Additionally, a KMC civilian employee placed second in the women’s open division.
Such domination gave Kaiserslautern a virtual lock on the men’s overall team trophy ahead of Schweinfurt and third-place finisher Hanau.
Curtis Morgan, 435th Operations Support Squadron, won his first military open title by defeating defending champion Tony Grinston from Schweinfurt. Morgan, pushed to a tiebreaker in the semi-final (10-15, 15-11, 11-6), won easily 15-8 and 15-3 in the finals of the double-elimination format.
“It means a lot putting the notch on my belt,” said Morgan, 39, the youngest of the KMC team that averaged 47 years old. “I would have felt a lot better if the players I have lost to in the past were there. It still feels good to win, and I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t won.”
Morgan said this victory is a stepping-stone in preparation for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Nationals tournaments in May.
“I’m hoping to amend for having to withdraw due to injury from the Nationals last year. I’m in good shape both mentally and physically. I’m playing at a high level and hope it continues.”
Mike Bowers, 415th Base Support Battalion, continued his winning ways by capturing the master’s title over James Johnson from Heidelberg. The 47-year-old downed Johnson 15-12, 15-4, for his third master’s title of the season along with three open championships.
Johnson, the returning champion, was defeated in the first round by KMC team member, Ron Ruiz, from Defense Commissary Agency Europe, who finished third in the division.
“I played well in the first round,” said Ruiz the senior citizen of the team at age 58. “In the later rounds, I just didn’t have enough gas left in the tank and suffered from the aches and pains that come with age and intense competition. However, it was a good tournament for me and the rest of us from the KMC.”
Jesse Cross’ gold medal came in the seniors division with a relatively easy victory over Ray Walker from Würzburg, 15-6 and 15-5. Cross, 46, from the 200th Material Management Center was also eligible for the masters, but battled in the 30-39 age group for maximum team points.
Tammy Milkes from the 415th Base Support Battalion, earned a silver medallion coming in second to former pro-tour player Sallie Benedict of Stuttgart. Scores were 15-3, 15-4.
“I was looking forward to meeting and playing her [Benedict],” said Milkes. “It was not so much to see if I could beat here, but to see how well I would do. It was an honor just to play her.”
Although Milkes said it was terrific to play in a military championship, she expressed disappointment in the lack of participants, especially women. Thirty-three players, including only four women, entered the tournament that was completed in one day.
“I expected to see more players,” said Milkes. “However, I always enjoy playing, facing new challenges and meeting new players.”
The U.S. Forces Europe Racquetball Championships are scheduled to be held in May at the Ramstein Northside Fitness Center courts.
(Courtesy of 415th Base Support Battalion Public Affairs )