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Individual title icing on the cake

SQUASH

Surf City Squash Club’s Casey Miller has added lustre to a stellar year by winning the C Grade women’s individual national champion of champions event in Ohakune last weekend.

Miller had come through local competition to earn the right to represent Squash Eastern, and she took on other district champions in round-robin play.

Seeded fifth, she had a strong start with a 3-1 win against No.2 seed Emily Chamberlain, of Central Squash, on Friday night.

She followed that up with another 3-1 win, this time against Shaylee Creighton from Bay of Plenty, on Saturday.

A win on Sunday against top-seeded Ezra Murray, from Waikato, clinched the title for Miller. It was her strongest performance of the weekend. She won 3-0 to become the national champion of champions for C Grade women, and was presented with the Kauri Trophy.

Miller was a member of the Surf City Squash Club team who won the National SuperChamps C Grade women’s tournament in Napier last month.

The individual title is the icing on the cake.

Miller said she had never won anything like this before.

She had played squash as a child, “following in the footsteps” of her father Chris Miller.

“I played as a kid and lost my way with the sport,” she said.

“I got back into squash in my early 20s but after a while it tailed off again.

“My main sport was netball for a few years, and I focused on my son Zahn. He’s five in December.”

She said club president Daniel Newman encouraged her to get back into the sport, and coach Avon Moleta and the other members of the C Grade women’s team pushed her in every training session.

The work she did with the team preparing for the National SuperChamps tournament helped her succeed in the individual event.

“It all helps . . . the training and going away to tournaments helped stir the love of the game in me,” she said.

“We were training four times a week, and most of those sessions started with our 92s and 10 10s. That’s 190 court sprints before we picked up a racket, and they’d take between 20 minutes and half an hour.”

The drills were aimed at fitness and recovery. Players did their 92s — 92 lengths of the squash court — in pairs. While one worked, the other rested. One would sprint two lengths of the court, then the other would do the same. Then they’d take turns to do four lengths, then eight, then 16, then 32. Their rest was the time it took their training partner to run whatever segment they were doing. Then they would go down the ladder — 16 lengths, eight, four, two . . . 92 in total.

The 10 10s drill was simply running 10 lengths of the court 10 times, with the rest period again being the time it took the training partner to perform each segment of the drill.

“Squash is such a stop-start, high-intensity game, the training is all about getting oxygen back to the brain efficiently,” Miller said.

The club’s C Grade women had thought about entering the National SuperChamps last year but the tournament was in the South Island and they felt they hadn’t enough time before the event to train properly. But 2020 would be different.

“This was the first year I made squash my main sporting focus,” Miller said.

“Normally, it’s been netball, but this year I changed my perspective and gave squash top spot.

“I had two goals: to get to B Grade and for my team to win the nationals. To come away with the individual national title as well is amazing.”

Miller, 35, said she would try to keep improving next year, when she would be competing as a B Grade player.

“I’ll have to sit down and reassess my goals.”

This year she played netball for IMS High School Old Girls Masters at goal defence or goal keep.

“In previous years I’ve played for the HSOG second team,” she said.

“This year I wanted to take a step back on such commitments so I could do the travelling for squash tournaments.

“The masters’ team offered that lesser commitment but with the same competitiveness. We came second in the A Grade. On the day of the finals, I was away playing in the squash SuperChamps.”

Miller said she would have a week or two off, but would keep her fitness levels up over summer so she could hit the ground running early next year.

HER BIGGEST FAN: National C Grade women’s squash champion Casey Miller with the trophy and her biggest fan, four-year-old son Zahn. Picture by Chris Miller