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RANGELY I When Rangely resident Andrea Gianinetti began playing racquetball three years ago, she wasn’t doing it for herself.
Her then-6-year-old son, Zeek, was interested in the game, and she had agreed to hit the ball around with him on the Western Rio Blanco Metropolitan (WRBM) Recreation Center courts.
After the pair had played a few times, they realized they’d have more fun if they better understood the game.
Andrea had noticed the small sign on the bulletin board outside the courts: “Learn to play racquetball. First lesson free.” The accompanying number belonged to local expert Shirley Parsons, who readily agreed to teach them the basics.
A few lessons in, Parsons refused Gianinetti’s offer of payment on one condition: that Andrea join the upcoming Rangely Racquetball Tournament. Hesitantly, Gianinetti agreed.
Having only played the sport for a few weeks, Gianinetti felt embarrassed at her performance that weekend. But soon after, she decided if she couldn’t yet beat ‘em, she’d join ‘em in an effort to learn more. She started working with more experienced players and enlisted friends to learn along with her.
So was born a network of local players, many of them moms who worked around playdates and preschool to learn racquetball. Over the next two years, they strengthened basic skills and began to learn the finer nuances of the game.
Parsons stayed involved, teaching classes that worked with moms’ schedules and hosting workshops for players’ children.
Last March, Gianinetti signed up for the Rangely Racquetball Tournament for a second time.
“After the first year, I thought, ‘I don’t think I’m ever going to do that again,’” she said. “Then I told myself, ‘No, I’m going to redeem myself.’ Somewhere in between there, I got hooked.”
Gianinetti could tell that in just a year’s time, she had improved. The training, not to mention the enjoyment of spending time with friends and putting in hours of intense cardio exercise, had paid off.
For the next year, some locals new to racquetball faded out as players got minor injuries or took on other commitments. But between regulars who’d been showing up for years and newbies who’d caught a passion for the game, the 2016 Rangely Racquetball Tournament looked to have a strong local turnout.
Gianinetti was among one-third of Rangely residents who made up the 29 participants at this year’s event, held March 4-6. She played in both singles and doubles divisions, spending the weekend among now-familiar faces not only from Rangely but also from Vernal, Grand Junction and the Front Range.
“It’s a pretty small community (who play), so it was fun to run into those people I hadn’t seen since last year,” she said. “Some of them are getting to know my kids and can see they’ve grown, and that’s cool. I wouldn’t have met any of them otherwise.”
For Gianinetti, the same thing that kept her playing racquetball three years ago was the highlight of this tournament: investing time in relationships with friends who now have the sport in common.
By the weekend’s close, Gianinetti had placed second with Payton, Colo., partner Bob Sanders in the C/D doubles division.
Several other locals also took home handmade trophy mugs: TyWayne DeCuir (first in Men’s A), Jason Krueger (first in Men’s B), Marques Jones (second in Men’s C/D), Michelle Jones (second in Women’s C/D) and DeCuir and Krueger (first in B Doubles).
For Parsons, who has been a key force in fostering Rangely racquetball for more than 30 years, the tournament embodies why she continues shepherding generations of locals into the sport.
“It’s so much fun to see others become passionate about it, too,” Parsons said. “It’s just so much fun to play and enjoy the comradeship and exercise. It was great to see all the locals playing so well and actually improving during the course of the tournament.”
Gianinetti knows that had Parsons not urged her to sign up for that first tournament, she may never have asked others to join her in improving her game.
“They’re amazing, what (Parsons and Jeannie Smith) do,” she said. “Everybody who’s there is there because of them. Shirley commits herself to be available to people and teach anybody to play racquetball.”
Parsons and Smith, who organize the tournament each year, thanked the WRBM Recreation and Park District, the recreation center staff and Colorado Northwestern Community College for sponsoring and running the event for another year.
2016 Rangely Racquetball Tournament Results
1st – Dan Lonquist (Fruita)
2nd – Ed Roffey (Grand Junction)
1st – TyWayne DeDuir (Rangely)
2nd – Mike Ballard (New Castle)
1st – Jason Kruger (Rangely)
2nd – Matt Miller (Grand Junction)
Men’s C/D combined
1st – Bob Sanders (Peyton)
2nd – Marques Jones (Rangely)
Women’s Open/A combined
1st – Lisa Brutosky (Grand Junction)
2nd – Sheli Bodily (Vernal, UT)
Women’s C/D combined
1st – Ginny Brunetti (Thornton)
2nd – Michelle Jones (Rangely)
1st – Rob Schoeber (Grand Junction) / Cameron Mason (Fruita)
2nd – Nick Brutosky (Grand Junction) / Lisa Brutosky (Grand Junction)
1st – TyWayne DeCuir (Rangely) / Jason Krueger (Rangely)
2nd – Matt Miller (Grand Junction) / Cara Pellowski (Palisade)
C/D Doubles combined
1st – Phil Gaerlan (Colorado Springs) / Ginny Brunetti (Thornton)
2nd – Bob Sanders (Peyton) / Andrea Gianinetti (Rangely)