Jonny Barnett reckons it's his turn
RACING EDITOR AND COLLEGE SPORT WRITER
Jonny Barnett reckons he is due to win a national age-group squash title.
The Hutt Valley High School pupil gets his last chance when he contests the New Zealand junior age-group championships, which begin in Palmerston North tomorrow.
Barnett, who won the New Zealand junior open in April, has made three age-group finals but lost each one, all to different opponents.
He was beaten by Lance Beddoes in the under-19 final last year, lost the under-17 final to perennial rival Zac Millar two years ago and lost to Todd Redman in the under-15 final in 2008.
Millar and Redman will be rivals again in the under-19 grade this week. Millar is the top seed, with Barnett the second seed and Redman the third.
The trio were team- mates at the world junior championships this year, and fourth seed Ben Grindrod was also in the world championship team.
Millar, who is in his final year at Paraparaumu College, and Barnett have been clashing at club, school, provincial and national level for years.
Barnett, who played at No 1 at the world juniors, beat Millar to claim his junior open title but the tables were turned in subsequent clashes this year.
"Zac looks the hardest to beat again," Barnett said. "This is the last big tournament for the year and I've been training pretty hard."
Barnett has also had to keep up to the mark with his school work, as he hopes to study engineering at either Auckland or Canterbury University next year.
Millar, who will still be eligible for the under-19 division in 2013, has picked up a plethora of age- group titles, stretching back to 2005, when he won the under-11 division.
He took the under-13 title two years later, the under-15 in 2009 and has been the under-17 champion for the past two years.
He now hopes to match older sister Emma, won won the under- 19 girls' title in 2010.
Millar, who has a national ranking of 11, achieved an A1 grading last month.
"That was one of my goals for the year, so it was good to get that."
Millar does not confine his sporting interests to squash and made a handful of appearances for the Paraparaumu College first XV late in the season, playing at either hooker or No 8.
Wellington players should be prominent in a variety of age groups in the individual squash championships and should also be a force in the teams event, which begins next Monday.
Barnett's twin, Rebecca, is top seed for the under-19 girls and is seeking her third age-group title, after success at under-13 and under-17 levels.
Scott Galloway (Hutt Valley High School) is still just 14 but is the top seed in the boys' under-17 division, after taking the under-15 title for the past two years, and Paris Dalrymple-Mortleman (Te Kura Correspondence School) is second seed for the girls' under-17.
Wellington has not taken the boys' team title since 2006 but should be an irresistible force this year, with the squad headed by three A grade players - Millar, Barnett and Galloway.
The girls' team will have hopes of at least making the final, giving Wellington a chance to claim the Gifford Trophy, for the best overall district.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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