Vardaman, Callado victorious in collegiate 9-ball championships

James Winter, Lars Vardaman, Eleanor Callado and Emilyn Callado

The best collegiate players in the nation followed the BCA juniors in Tucson, with matches beginning on Friday night. The Association of College Unions (ACUI) has hosted a national collegiate playoff nearly every year since the 1930s, boasting past champions such as Nick Varner (Purdue, 1969-1970) and Max Eberle (James Madison University, 1993-1994).

Lars Vardaman of Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville took home the ACUI Men's title for a third year in a row. Only one player in ACUI history has ever achieved this feat: Leroy Kinman of Eastern Kentucky State University (1949-1951). Lars charged virtually uncontested through the winners' side of the chart, logging victories over JP Engstrom of Boise State University (9-1), Tien Pham of the University of Washington (9-6), James Winter of UCLA (9-2), Ryan Balks of Michigan State University (9-3), and Andrew McKinn of Cal State University at Los Angeles (9-6).

Philosophy doctoral student James Winter, in his fourth consecutive top-4 appearance in the ACUI Championships, was Lars' final contender. James, in his fifth and final year of ACUI eligibility, was aching for a title, having finished in 2nd place in 2003 and 2005 and in 3rd place in 2004. James first faced Lars in round 3, losing by a score of 9-2. James then dispatched five players on the one-loss side before facing Lars again for a rematch in the finals. But the alternating-break format prevented either player from gaining momentum. Failure to pocket a ball on his break, combined with a few bad rolls (including one ball that was pocketed but jumped back onto the table) kept James in his chair. Lars capitalized on these opportunities, running out at nearly every opportunity and exercising thoughtful safety play. He was unstoppable, allowing James only 3 games in a race to 9.

In the Women's division, familiar names rose to the top as well, with twin sisters Eleanor and Emilyn Callado of San Francisco State University facing each other in the finals. For Eleanor, it was a relatively easy road to the finals; her nearest contender en route to the hot seat match won only 2 games in a race to 7. She defeated local favorite, Nicole Hayashi of Tucson's Pima Community College, in the winners' side finals (7-5). Emilyn, on the other hand, was stunned by the University of Florida's Amy Chen in her first match of the tournament (4-7), but fought her way through seven matches the one-loss side. She tallied wins over Valerie Garcia of Texas A&M (7-6), Lai Li of the University of Maryland (7-6), Kristin Lupo of the University of Illinois (7-5), Marcia Keat of the University of Michigan (7-2), Amy Whitehead of Idaho State University (7-6), and her SFSU teammate Lynda Hinds (7-4). Her final and most convincing win was against Nicole Hayashi in the semi-finals, a blowout of 7-0. Despite Emilyn's newfound zone, a two-set finals match for the twins was not meant to be, as the elder Callado--born 2 minutes earlier--dashed her younger sister's hopes of a championship with a decisive 7-2 victory.

This was the third ACUI championship title for Eleanor; she won at East Carolina University in 2003 and the University of Michigan in 2005. In 2004, she placed 2nd behind Maria Juana of the University of Wisconsin.

Lars Vardaman and Eleanor Callado are both BCA Junior tournament alumni. Lars was the Boys 14 & Under Artistic Pool champion in 1999 and the 18 & Under Artistic Pool runner up in 2003. Eleanor was the Girls 18 & Under 9-Ball champion in 2002 and 2003.

ACUI also recognizes its students for good sportsmanship and their breaking ability. Winners of the Men's and Women's Sportsmanship trophies (voted by their peers) were:

Joe Kuligowksi - Penn State University
Laura Van Grinsven - University of Wyoming

Winners of the Best Break trophies (determined by break contest) were:
Aaron Reesman, University of Wisconsin - Whitewater
Milica Kozomara, Northern Illinois University

The site for the 2007 ACUI 9-ball Championship is not yet finalized. If you or someone you know is a college student who would like to compete in a regional tournament to qualify for this event, please visit the ACUI website at or e-mail the National 9-ball Director, Betsy Sundholm, at