Mesa County Marbles players show their sportsmanship and ability at national tour

Anna Lee, 8, of Glade Park practices on the marbles courts at Lincoln Park. Anna took eleventh place in the girls division at the National Marbles Tournament in Wildwood, N.J., earlier this month.

Thirteen-year-old Kyle Krabbe is good at marbles and is also good at encouragement. For the second straight year, Krabbe was awarded the boys Best Sportsmanship Award at the National Marbles tournament in Wildwood, N.J. In addition to the award, Krabbe finished tied for sixth.

The National Marbles Tournament recognizes what Mesa County Marbles coach Leah Lee is all about.

Last week, Lee took a team of four marble shooters to the 87th annual National Marbles Tournament in Wildwood, N.J. On the final day of the tournament, Lee had the girls “Best Sport” award named in her honor. The boys award was named for her father, Jerry Piquette, who coaches the Gunnison County team.

“It was a surprise to both of us,” Lee said. “A committee member told us we’ve had such good luck with best sports that they thought they’d name it after us.”

Colorado has won more sportsmanship awards at the national tournament than any other state. Lee said having the competitors be good sports is more important than winning.

“Sportsmanship has to come first,” Lee said. “The competition level stays up when you’re encouraging your opponent and you keep the game fun, which is the way it should be.”

Mesa County’s Kyle Krabbe won the Best Sport award for the second straight year. The winner receives a trophy and a $500 college scholarship. Krabbe said he’s always making sure he’s encouraging his opponent.

“I try to encourage the other players to have fun and I tell them they can do it,” Krabbe said. “(Lee) told us to not be bad sports, because it makes a bad impression on yourself.”

Lee said past Mesa County marbles players who had success at the national tournament all set the example in sportsmanship.

“A lot of national champions from this area were also the Best Sport award winners,” Lee said. “I feel that’s the key of winning and doing well, because they are focused and able to have fun, even with all the pressure.”

Lee said one of her favorite moments of the tournament was handing the girls Best Sport award to a player from West Virginia.

“Maybe why they named those sportsmanship awards after us is because that’s what we value more than anything,” Lee said. “When I handed out the award I said, ‘This is what it’s about.’ The girl who got it came in next to last place and she had a bigger smile than the national champion.”

Although the Colorado mibsters might be best known for their sportsmanship, they more than hold their own in the ring.

Jake O’Banion and Krabbe made the boys semifinals, and tied for sixth place. Katie Carozza finished ninth in the girls competition, and Anna Lee, the youngest competitor in the tournament at 8 years old, finished 11th.

“She just barely turned eight and did amazing,” Leah Lee said of her daughter. “A lot of the younger kids will cry or can’t handle the pressure, but she had a great time. She was giggling the whole time.”

Carozza, 10, finished one game short of the final eight.

“I was happy with how I finished,” Carozza said. “My goal is to make the semifinals or finals before I’m 15.”

O’Banion and Krabbe, both 13, were two of the older boys competing. Both players went 6-6 in the semifinals.

In addition to the Best Sport award, Krabbe also won the award for most sticks.

In marbles, a stick is when a player gets seven marbles out of the circle on his first turn, which ends the game. Krabbe had five sticks in the tournament.

Krabbe has one more year to make the National Marbles Tournament, and plans on settling for nothing less than first place.

“Kyle has stuck with it and he’s determined to win,” Lee said. “I think he has a good chance.”



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