2011 BEF Junior National Champions Crowned

The Billiard Education Foundation (BEF) crowned four winners in the 2011 BEF Junior National 9-Ball Championships. Over 100 junior pocket billiard players gathered in the Huskies Den at Northern Illinois University on July 6-10 to compete for the title in 4 divisions. In the 18-and-under boys' division, Danny Olson of Broomfield, CO, prevailed, while Briana Miller of Allentown, PA, steam-rolled through the18-and-under girls' division. Billy Thorpe of Dayton, OH, thrived in the 14-and-under boys' division and Taylor Reynolds of Waterville, ME, won her first title in the 14-and-under girls' division.

Junior billiard players travelled from 26 states to attend the 23rd Annual BEF Junior National 9-Ball Championships in hopes of winning a title, scholarships, prizes, an entry into the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) World Junior 9-Ball Championships, to connect with friends and to make new friends.

In the 18-and-under boys' division, the top finishers were no strangers to junior billiards. Danny Olson, determined to better his 4th place finish in 2010 and finishing a respectable 7th place in the 2010 WPA World Junior 9-Ball Championships, proved to be a tough contender this year. Olson steadily proceeded through the winner's bracket with wins over Jeremy Johnson 9-2, J.C. Torres 9-1, Kevin Sun 9-7, Zachary Leonard 9-3, and Tyler Styer 9-3 before losing to Brendan Crocket 6-9. Crockett, 2009 champion of the 14-and-under boys' division, smoothly sailed through the winner's bracket without a loss.  Crockett defeated Refugio Vara 9-0, Edwin Gomez 9-4, Chris Byers 9-3, Chad Behnke 9-4 and Danny Olson 9-6 to claim the seat as the only undefeated contestant in the 39 player division. Olson faced Tyler Styer on the one-loss side in a match that almost sealed any chance of him winning his last opportunity, because of age eligibility, for a Junior National title. But a well executed safety by Olson when the score was 8-8 found Styer's three-rail kick only inches short of hitting his target, giving Olson ball-in-hand on the 5-ball. Olson ran out for the win and a chance for a rematch with Crockett in the one set finals. Olson kept his winning momentum, capturing the match 11 games to 6 and his first title as the Junior National 9-Ball Champion.

In the 18-and-under girls' division, Briana Miller zipped through the tournament losing only a hand-full of games. The fierce and determined 15 year old bulldozed her way through matches over Kendra Britt 7-0, Caitlyn Shuping 7-0, Kendra Russell 7-2 and Brooke Zimmermann 7-3 before taking charge in the final match against Zimmermann, 9-0 and seizing her fifth title as Junior National Champion in the girls' division.

Billy Thorpe won his second consecutive title in the 14-and-under boys' division by breezing through several matches including wins over Marcus Abney 7-2, Nathan Bourque 7-1, Sergio Rivas 7-3, Austen Russell 7-1, Joey Torrez 7-2 and Shawn Begay 7-0 before claiming the honors of being the only undefeated player in the 49 player field. Also moving forward through the winner's bracket was Shawn Begay of Gallup, New Mexico. Begay inched his way with victories over Nick Evans 7-6, Justin St. Andrews 7-5, JonMichael Monegato 7-4, Tyler Brandom 7-6 and Ricky Evans 7-3 before facing the reigning champion, Billy Thorpe, for the winner's bracket seat. Thorpe sent Begay to the one-loss side to battle with Austen Russell. Begay prevailed with a 7-6 win over Russell and earned a chance to dethrone Thorpe. Thorpe secured his title as reigning champion with a 9-5 win over Begay.

In the 14-and-under girls' division, it was former runner-up Taylor Reynolds who eagerly made it through the winner's bracket defeating April Larson 7-3 and 7-1 wins over both Katilyn Hall and Julianna Poutry before the finals match. Poutry made her way on the winner's bracket with wins over Katelin Ballou 7-1 and Karsyn Terry 7-6 before losing to Taylor Reynolds 1-7. Poutry faced Larson on the one-loss side, finishing in 3rd place. April Larson, a newcomer from Bloomington, Minnesota, steered her way through the one-loss side for another chance to play Reynolds. Larson, a well poised eleven year old, calmly, but quickly dashed ahead in the race to 9 games in the finals. Reynolds sprinted to tie the score at 7 games each and continued to thrust forward to win the next 2 games, winning the race and her first Junior Nationals title.

In addition to trophies and prizes, the winners of the four divisions were awarded $1,000 in academic scholarships  and earned an opportunity to represent the U.S. in the upcoming World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) World Junior 9-Ball Championships, which will be held in Kielce, Poland, August 31st – September 4th. Second-place finishers in all four divisions received $500 in academic scholarships, trophies and prizes. Additionally, second and third-place finishers in the 18-and-under boys' division also received an entry into the 2011 WPA World Junior 9-Ball Championships.  

As well as enjoying all the excitement of the main event, players, families and fans were mesmerized by the sweet venom of "The Black Widow" Jeanette Lee.  Lee was available during the event for challenge matches, clinics and shared her personal story of adversity and inspirational words to over 250 attendees at the BEF Junior National banquet. Other excitement included the Junior National "Artistic Pool" Championship, facilitated by none other than World Trick Shot Champion, Tom "Dr. Cue" Rossman with wife Marty "Ms. Cue." Also available was BCA Master Instructor, Jerry Briesath, who tirelessly worked with eager youth who were interested in perfecting their game.

Much appreciation goes out to all who diligently worked to help produce a first class event, including: tournament director Earl Munson for keeping the event running smoothly and for his volunteer work throughout the year; volunteer referees: Rick Doner, Justin Ballou and Jamie Strait; Melvin and Tammy Leonard for their assistance with the mini-tournaments, parent/child partner tournament and assistance throughout the week; to Christian Riddle, Huskies Den manager and all his staff; and BEF personnel Dawn Hopkins and Laura Smith.

A special "thank you" to all of the event sponsors who made the 2011 Junior National 9-Ball Championships possible: Simonis Cloth, Billiard Congress of America (BCA), Aramith Billiard Balls, Dr. Cue Promotions, Northern Illinois University (NIU) /Holmes Student Center/ Huskies Den and the BEF.  Also, thanks to all the product donors who contributed to the junior prizes. A list of donors can be viewed on the BEF website at www.Billiard Education.org.