Marlborough’s Megan Craig defied her fifth seeding, plus a lengthy break from top-level squash, to claim third place in the New Zealand squash champs last weekend.
Twenty-six-year-old Craig, the champion in 2014 and 2016 before taking time off to give birth to 10-month-old daughter Ameika, beat top junior Natalie Saves in the second round, then fourth seed Abbie Palmer [world-ranked 103] in four games during the quarterfinals.
In the semis, Craig came up against the country’s leading player, Joelle King, and was beaten 11-5, 11-8, 11-3 by the world’s sixth-ranked female.
In Sunday’s play-off for third and fourth, Craig got the better of “old friend” and former NZ junior team-mate Lana Harrison, who narrowly lost to Amanda Landers-Murphy in the semis, in four games. Craig tagged the game “the battle of the mums” with both players making their return to top-level squash after having given birth to their first child.
The Marlborough No 1 was happy with her efforts, reaching her goal of making the top three, especially as she is dividing her time between running, squash, personal training and baby-minding these days. Consequently, she struggled to stay with fully-professional player King in their semi, Craig noting that “she’s classy”.
“[Joelle] has that accuracy that I don’t have any more, because I don’t get to drill as often. She’s playing with top girls, and guys, all the time … definitely a bit faster-paced that I have been used to.”
However, despite her baby break, Craig felt she was not far off the pace.
“By Sunday I felt like I was back where I was … maybe not as speedy but I’m playing a bit smarter now and I’m probably fitter than I have ever been. I also enjoyed not having any pressure this year, that was really nice, not trying to get into any teams … just being there to play.”
Craig had husband Keegan and baby Ameika along for support suggesting, “there was a lot more to pack than just my squash gear these days”.
“It was nice looking out from the court to see [Ameika] smiling back at me.”
King went on to clinch her eighth national title, defeating second seed Amanda Landers-Murphy from Rotorua 11-2, 11-4, 11-6.
Former Marlborough No 1 Quinn Udy also attended the champs in Auckland. He was seeded 22 in the men’s open and finished 18th overall. The men’s title was claimed by Paul Coll who beat second seed Campbell Grayson 11-3, 11-7, 11-4.
Meanwhile, the Marlborough Boys’ College and Marlborough Girls College teams travelled to Dunedin last weekend to contest the South Island Secondary Schools championships.
MGC finished second, the MBC A team wound up 5th and the MBC B side ended up second in division one.