Junior National Billiards Champions Crowned
Shuffett, Lovely, Crockett and Miller Crowned Junior Nationals Champions
Billiard Education Foundation Junior Nationals / Normal, IL
Nearly 100 hopeful junior players arrived for the Billiard Education Foundation (BEF) 21st Annual Junior Nationals, held July 23-26 in the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University in Normal, IL, and when the dust of the heated competition settled, four champions had emerged. Two-time 14-and-under Boys Junior Nationals Champion Landon Shuffett, hailing from Greensburg, KY, pulled off another win his first time out in the 19-and-under Boys Division, while Liz Lovely of Centerville, OH topped the 19-and-under Girls Division. Brendan Crockett of Bell Canyon, CA went undefeated through the 14-and-under Boys Division, while Briana Miller of Allentown, PA took the 14-and-under Girls title for the third year in a row.
In the 46-entrant 19-and-under Boys division, Shuffett didn’t give up more than three games to any one of his opponents until he reached the winners’ side final four, where he met 2008 runner-up Nick Tafoya of Albuquerque, NM. Giving up five games to Tafoya, Shuffett moved on to the hot seat match against Jesse Engel of Columbia Heights, MN. Engel, who’d just eased by Ryan Behnke of Farley, IA 9-3, got more games against Shuffett than anyone else had, but six wasn’t enough to earn the hot seat, and he moved over to the left side of the bracket.
On the one-loss side, Tafoya met up with Joshua Newman (Bessoner City, NC), who’d just shut out Ryan Dunn (Hillsboro, TN). Holding Newman to five games, Tafoya moved on to Skyler Woodward (Ledbetter, KY), who was coming off a hill-hill win over Behnke. The fairly tight match ended 9-7 in Newman’s favor, and it was time for him to battle Engel for the right to a rematch with Shuffett in the finals. With his 9-7 win, Engel earned that right, but his rematch didn’t go his way. Although the single-set final race was longer, Shuffett once again held Engel to six games, becoming champion with an 11-6 win.
In the 32-entrant 14-and-under Boys division, Crockett had given up only nine games before meeting Bryce Lepak of Winter Springs, FL in the hot seat match. The boys were both coming off of 7-1 wins, Crockett over Buster Loving (Rockaway Beach, MO) and Lepak over Logan Loving (Forsyth, MO), and this match was a bit lopsided, as well. Sending Lepak west 7-3, Crockett waited in the hot seat for an opponent, which turned out to be Billy Thorpe of Dayton, OH. Thorpe, who’d suffered a first-round loss, had plowed his way through the one-loss side, finishing up with L. Loving 7-3, Chad Behnke (Farley, IA) 7-3, and Lepak 7-2 in the semifinals. Thorpe, who had fallen to Shuffett in last year’s finals, unfortunately fared no better in the 2009 finals, as Crockett’s strong 9-5 win earned him the 14-and-under Boys title.
In the 12-entrant 19-and-under Girls division, Centerville, OH’s Lovely arrived in the hot seat match following a 7-1 win over Stephanie Stone (Gastonia, NC). Joining her was Evansville, IN’s Chelsea Hardwick, who was coming off her own 7-1 win over Laura Benck (Manhattan, IL). Lovely, who had given up only two games up to that match, won hill-hill over Hardwick, sending her to the one-loss semifinal match against Jauslinn Arnold of Bakersfield, CA. Hardwick, who’d been put in 2nd by her older sister Allison in 2008, was looking for another go at the finals but came up one game short, falling 7-6 to Arnold. Arnold had managed just one game against Lovely in the second round, and though she managed a couple more in the finals, it was Lovely who closed it out with a decisive 9-3 win.
With just two girls in the 14-and-under division, the format was a bit different: best of three races to seven. Taylor Reynolds of Waterville, ME was the brave soul trying to dethrone Miller, and she did manage five games in the first set. But the second set, which she would need to win to push a third set, did not go her way, as Miller’s continuing reign was sealed with a 7-1 win.
The BCA, as a member of the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), is given an allotted number of entries into the World Junior 9-Ball Championships and allows the BEF to distribute those awards. Of the 4 boys entries awarded, 3 were given to the top 3 finishers in the 19 & under boys’ division ( Landon Shuffett, Jesse Engel & Nick Tafoya) and 1 entry to the winner of the 14 & under boys’ division, Brendan Crockett. The 2 girls entries were given to the winner of each of the girls’ divisions, Liz Lovely & Briana Miller.
1st Place in each division received a $1,000 scholarship
2nd Place in each division received a $500 scholarship
Prizes were generously donated by these sponsors:
Aramith Billiard Balls
Association of College Unions International (ACUI)
Billiard Congress of America (BCA)
Billiard Education Foundation (BEF)
“Dr Cue” Promotions
Illinois State University
Inside Pool Magazine
Pool & Billiard Magazine
American Poolplayers Association (APA)
J. Pechauer Cue
Women’s Professional Billiard Association (WPBA)
$1,000,000 Galveston World Classic