RISING starlet Josie Barker scooped the coveted John Dale Trophy at the Northumberland County Junior Squash Championships.
The fast-improving Northern player becomes only the second girl to win the award, after a superlative season in which she rose to No 4 in the England Under 17 rankings.
Barker had just picked up the County U17 title after an epic 3-2 win over close rival – and other one of the best young female players in the region – Laura Neill on finals day of the tournament, sponsored yet again by long-term squash supporters DB Glaziers.
And she made it a remarkable double when County chairman Dave Barnett informed a bumper crowd at Jesmond’s Northumberland club that she had collected arguably the most treasured trophy in North East junior squash.
In only its sixth year, the John Dale Trophy has become a cherished tradition at this annual showpiece tournament, named after, and in honour of, the late John Dale, professional squash player from Kingston Park.
Barker follows in the footsteps of the most celebrated junior players in the North East in recent years. Former winners are Lucy Beecroft (Tynemouth), Chris Wiggins (Alnwick and Northumberland Club), Northern duo Michael Mattimore and Cai Younger and 2014 winner Dan Wareing (Northumberland Club).
Selected by the county’s top junior coaches, the award recognises an outstanding contribution to squash, both in terms of playing ability, and general conduct on and off the court.
Barker has picked up a string of trophies over the last two seasons, and her competitive, athletic displays on court, complemented with a friendly and positive demeanour, have won her many fans in the region.
John Dale himself was a top-100 professional after picking up a racket as a young lad. He sadly died of cancer aged just 33 five years ago, but his name lives on in an award which celebrates the very best of North East squash.
Barnett, who presented the trophy, said: “Josie has made such progress over a very short space of time, coming into squash late and to tournament squash even later.
“She now sits as Northumbria’s top girl player having won the county closed. It’s all down to playing almost every day and working hard at her game. The award is very well deserved.”