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Sebastian Paredes, Santa Barbara AC Squash Team Win SoCal High School Championships

It's the fourth straight title for the program; Paredes beats teammate Dillon Miller for individual crown

The Santa Barbara Athletic Club’s squash team won the Southern California High School Championship for the fourth straight year. The team members are, from left: Zaira Paredes (team captain), Clay Rodgers, Sebastian Paredes, Jason Feinberg and Dillon Miller (in front). Sebastian Paredes (holding plaque), won the individual title. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara Athletic Club’s squash team won the Southern California High School Championship for the fourth straight year. The team members are, from left: Zaira Paredes (team captain), Clay Rodgers, Sebastian Paredes, Jason Feinberg and Dillon Miller (in front). Sebastian Paredes (holding plaque), won the individual title. (Courtesy photo)

For the fourth year in a row, five young players from the Santa Barbara Athletic Club won the Southern California High School League A team squash championship, which took place on Saturday in Aliso Viejo. They easily beat teams from Irvine and Los Angeles to earn the title. 

Although it was the heavy favorite going into the tournament, the big upset of the weekend came in the individual tournament on Sunday, when Santa Barbara’s No. 2 player, Sebastian Paredes, beat the team’s No. 1 player, Dillon Miller, in three straight games, 11-7, 11-6, 11-4, and was named the high school champion. 

“When I stepped onto the court, I knew I was going to beat him,” said Paredes, 15, who had never beaten Miller in a tournament even though they have played many times before. “I was really tired, but I pulled myself together and managed to beat him 3-0.”

In the first round of the tournament, Paredes had an easy victory over Alex Trevino of the Episcopal School of Los Angeles, but his next two matches were long and hard-fought. He beat his teammate Jason Feinberg 3-1, but the third game went to 20-18; his semifinal match against Mario Reifschneider of Torrey Pines went to five games. He only had enough time to grab a drink of water and change his shirt before heading back onto the court against Miller in the finals. 

“It was an impressive display of focus, hard work and resilience,” said Tim Thomas, who coaches the team at the Santa Barbara Athletic Club. “Something has really clicked recently for Sebastian and he has been really motivated.”

Paredes credited his win to his increased training in the last few months. In addition to team practices several times a week, he hits by himself at 6 a.m. twice a week, working on technique and footwork. 

Other players on the Santa Barbara team include: Clay Rodgers, a junior at Laguna Blanca; Feinberg, a senior at Santa Barbara High School, and Zaira Paredes, a senior at Laguna Blanca. Paredes is a sophomore and Miller a junior at Dos Pueblos. Because the Southern California high school league is relatively new (as compared to high school leagues on the East Coast), teams are allowed to include players from a variety of schools. 

“Even though they go to different schools, they work together really well as a team,” said coach Thomas. “They are very well-respected in the squash world, both for their playing ability and their sportsmanship.”

During the team tournament on Saturday, the Santa Barbara team earned a bye in the first round and then beat the Episcopal School of Los Angeles in the second round, 4-1. In the finals, Santa Barbara beat Irvine, also 4-1. The tournament also included two teams from San Diego as well as the Cate School. Santa Barbara also sent two B teams, but they did not place.

The Santa Barbara team has dominated play in recent history, racking up 36 individual match wins and only 4 match losses in the last four years. Last year, the Santa Barbara team did not lose a single match over three weekends of play. 

Sebastian and Zaira Paredes, who are cousins, are members of the Santa Barbara School of Squash, a non-profit program that not only teaches low-income students how to play squash, but also provides academic tutoring and mentoring as well. Squash is a fast-paced racquet sport played on an indoor court between two players, who hit a small rubber ball against a wall. In addition to the three courts at the Santa Barbara Athletic Club, there are two courts at UCSB.

Sebastian Paredes, who has been playing since he was 9 years old, was named this year to a high performance team of players from the National Urban Squash and Education Association. As part of that program, he traveled to Philadelphia last fall to practice with other top players from the East Coast. He will also compete in a national urban squash tournament later this spring. Paredes has competed in more than 35 sanctioned squash tournaments since 2011, and currently holds a national ranking of No. 138 in the boys under-17 age group. His all-time highest national ranking was No. 53 in the boys under-13 age group.

“It’s a tremendous honor for our program and for Sebastian,” said Robert Graham, executive director of the Santa Barbara School of Squash, for Paredes to be the only West Coast player to have been named to the high performance team. “He’s got such a natural ability as a squash player, and this has helped him get motivated and put in the extra effort on the court.”

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