Making quite a racquet: Racquetball program at Crossroads enjoying success
Rachel Smith first started playing racquetball when her older brother needed a doubles partner.
She was interested, so she gave it a try.
“I thought it was cool,” Smith said. “It was nerve-racking at first. The ball moves so fast. Once I got into it, it was fun.”
Now, the 19-year-old is a two-time USA Racquetball Colorado state champion, is on the Colorado State University-Pueblo club team and is ranked second in state in the women’s ages 19-24 division. She also made the junior Olympic team last year.
The Fruita Monument High School graduate is back home for Christmas, but is getting in some practice before she returns to school in a couple weeks.
She credits her experience in the Crossroads Fitness Center junior program for her success.
“I can play people my own age or I can play people above me and learn,” she said.
The program has more than 40 juniors, including boys 14-under state champion Zach Pellowski.
Pellowski has played racquetball since he was 4. He is currently ranked third in Colorado in the boys 14-under division.
“It runs in the family,” he said. “It’s different than regular sports in school.”
His grandma has been a certified teaching pro since long before he was born.
Carol Pellowski moved to Grand Junction five years ago and took over the program at Crossroads.
She says there are 275 adults and 40 junior members that play.
“What we found is parents are looking for a sport that they don’t have to pay a lot of money,” Pellowski said. “The kids like it and the next thing you know, the parents are out here with them.”
Case in point is 6-year-old Austin Brown.
He started playing four months ago with his parents at Canyon View Park’s handball courts.
The family found flyers offering lessons at Crossroads and have been playing since.
“We have one of the best junior programs in the state,” Pellowski said. “We have some that started at age 4 and up to the teens. They are grouped according to ability. There is a lot of instruction and play combined.
“The little kids games are handicapped, so some of them get two bounces or more depending on their skill level.”
The fitness center hosts a junior tournament and an adult tournament each year.
The first-ever junior-only state tournament is scheduled for Feb. 19-20.