On the court

Midcoast Recreation Center pickleball trio excels at nationals

Blazej, Montana, Smith enjoy experience at California event
By Staff | Nov 24, 2018
Courtesy of: Midcoast Recreation Center From left, Baxter Smith, Patti Montana and Ken Blazej.

Indian Wells, Calif. — Three members of Midcoast Recreation Center pickleball program competed in the 2018 USAPA national championship tournament on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the Indian Wells Tennis Center, as two of the three players earned medals in their divisions.

Ken Blazej, Patti Montana and Baxter Smith earned their spots at the national tournament earlier in the year by taking first in their divisions at the New England championship tournament.

At the nationals, Blazej won the bronze in the men’s 3.5 division and Smith the silver in the men’s 3.0 division.

The USAPA national championship tournament attracted more than 2,500 pickleball players competing on 44 courts over the course of a week.

When the three were asked for their thoughts on competing at the national tournament, each expressed feelings of excitement and anticipation to compete among the best pickleball players in the country.

“I felt fortunate to be playing at this tournament, at this level, against some great players,” said Blazej. “To me, pickleball is about fun, exercise, camaraderie and friendly competition. [The tournament was] maxed out on all the above at the nationals.”

“The opportunity to play at the USAPA nationals proved to be every bit as memorable as I had imagined,” said Smith. “The Indian Wells venue was certainly ‘world class’ as described. I can not imagine ever playing pickleball in a more impressive facility and beautiful setting. Watching the world’s best play up-close was every bit as impressive as the venue. I felt very fortunate to be able to have played with both Ken and Pattie and share an experience that will long be remembered. I would definitely encourage anyone that loves pickleball to consider going if given the opportunity. I am glad I did.”

Montana added, “It was an honor to be one of 10 players representing Maine; three of us who regularly play at MRC in Rockport. I felt fortunate to be able to watch, meet and chat with many of the professional players. If you are a fan of pickleball you should plan on attending this event next year.”

MRC offers several pickleball classes — including learn to play, skills and drills and open play — with at least one class offered daily. To sign-up for a class, or for more information, visit midcoastrec.org or call 236-9400.

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com or by phone at 594-4401.

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