Weather cooperates at Pickleball tourney in Mount Shasta

Contributed by Susan Waller
Nate Nienau and Danea Ziegle participated at a pickleball tournament in Mount Shasta over the weekend.  Contributed photo

Rain on, rain off. Rain on.

Even though Mt. Shasta Pickleballers checked the weather forecast in preparation for their first huge tournament over the weekend at the Mt. Shasta Resort,  it was perfectly timed, with nary a moment to spare.

From high noon on Thursday, Sept. 19 until literally the last point of the final match on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 22, the weather cooperated in fine fashion. It was a collective sigh of relief.

Scurrying around with tools, measuring devices and new portable nets assembled, canopies up, merchandise and baked goods displayed, volunteers hustled in anticipation on Thursday in preparation for the three-day event, which started on Friday.

It was quite a weekend, with 126 players, 264 matches and 36 medal rounds (gold, silver, bronze) awarded to teams of two.

Gleeful spectators lined the area between courts with folding chairs, applauding great shots and cheering on players on all sides, all ages and all abilities.

Opening ceremonies on Friday were commenced by Marian Pasela, local tournament director, who introduced both retiring Mt. Shasta Recreation and Parks District Director Mike Rodriguez and incoming Shannon Shaw. Shaw has come full circle from playing sports at COS to eagerly supporting pickleball.

“The Parks District is proud to have recently added pickleball as a sponsored sport,” she said. “Seeing so many people come to this event is very encouraging.”

It was a marvelous three-day event with a slightly swirling wind yet clear skies for Women’s Doubles. Three local teams took home medals. Gold medalist Cheryl Wimpey quickly commented that it was an “extremely close competition” and most matches were won/lost by one point.

Saturday was perfect weather for Mixed Doubles and four local teams posed for photos during the medal presentations, most in their first-ever competition. Cloudy and on the verge of drizzles, Sunday was Men's Doubles, as four MSPC teams captured medals.

Perhaps one of the most astonishing matches occurred on Sunday with the Men’s 2.5 bracket playoffs. While everyone cheered down to the last point, the team of “Bill and Bill” snatched the gold. Big deal? You bet.

 Combined age of the four fellows is 324 years. 85, 82, 81, and 76. Local member Lee 'Maytag’ St. Pierre came off the court in amazement, sweating and stunned,

“I’m the youngest guy on the court at 76. And LOST,” he said.  St. Pierre took home a silver with Doug Crippen of the San Francisco Bay area, and took a bronze on Saturday with his wife Jane.

Lee picks up his paddle every chance he gets, typically 4-5 times a week. Jane made pickleball (ball) pouches for part of the fund raising efforts.

All players received  commemorative quick dry shirts that were designed by local player Jerry Whealan. Additional shirts and embroidered ball caps were available for a donation to help the cause. The Shirt Gallery donated time and skills, as well. The owners are avid about the sport.

On the other end of the spectrum, the youngest and tallest players are from Redding, ages 27 and 37. Tall and agile with a wing span that nearly touches both sidelines, Nate Nienau and Aaron Grimmer were impossible to take down in the 3.0 division, yet their graciousness and humility was evident to all.

Nienau and his woman partner Danea Ziegle played a nail-biter Saturday in the final 3.0 against the Mount Shasta team of Wendy Sue Perkins and Bill 'Octopus' McBain, the latter squeaking past the Redding pair to earn gold. This is after playing six to eight games in the Round Robin, then squaring off for two playoff games. They were happily exhausted. McBain is 77 and plays year-round here and in the Southern California desert area.

Players came to Siskiyou County all the way from Baja to Southern Oregon and many stayed for three to four days with most as first timers on the Mt. Shasta Resort courts.

One of the purposes of the large event was not only just plain old fun but also to raise funds to transfer some of the tennis courts to “pickleball only.” Court three will become four dedicated pickleball courts. USAPA frequently reports the phenomenal growth of the sport invented in 1965. There are over four million players in the U.S. alone, not to mention international growth.

Now there will be even more new local players on the Resort courts as many spectators from South County came to see what all the excitement is about.

For more information and photos of the tournament, visit Mt. Shasta Pickleball Club on Facebook or and contact Susan Waller at (530) 859-3294 for a free introductory lesson.