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NZ’s best junior pool players achieve top placings

New Zealand’s best young pool players returned home last month with a suite of top placings from the VNEA World Junior Pool Championships, held in Sioux City, Nebraska.

The team of 10 competed against just under 300 other junior pool players in the knock-out tournament that featured teams, doubles and singles competitions.

In the singles competition, Mario Hildred, 18, finished second in the Under 21 male division, while Kieran Dempsey, 15, also pulled off an impressive second place in his first major overseas tournament in the Under 16 male division. In the female division, Alexandria Endres, 14, played extremely well against some older and more experienced competitors to place second in the Under 16 female competition.

“Mario had only just returned from China where he played in the Under 21 and Under 18 World Snooker Championships, so this was a huge effort to back up on that, along with a complete change in format from playing snooker,” said the New Zealand team coach, Cole Hoggart.

In the scotch doubles tournament, team captain Hone Tito and Dion Stevenson, both from Hamilton, came third in the Under 21 division, while Alexandria Endres and Flynn Beetham, also both from Hamilton, came third in the Under 16 division as well.

In the teams competition, the New Zealand Under 16 team of Flynn Beetham, Kieran Dempsey and Alexandria Endres came close to pulling off a huge upset in the division, narrowly losing the final to a very skilled and experienced team from Iowa.

Under 16 team member Flynn Beetham said the competition was gruelling, but the team supported each other.

"If you can't stay focused or you're getting nervous or letting the pressure get to you, you've always got people to back you up. They can help you get back up to 100 percent of your game."

Also pulling off a huge performance was the New Zealand Under 13 team. Consisting of 9-year-old Pukekohe identical twins, Harlem and Tyler Hoggart, along with Jack McDonald (12), and Rhys Stevenson (11), the Kiwis came second in the Under 13 team competition.

New Zealand was also represented in the tournament ‘All Star Team’, which is announced towards the end of the event. Kieran Dempsey and Alexandria Endres were both named in the team, which is based on the results and performance of the players across all tournaments in the championships.

Mr Hoggart said all the players did extremely well playing long days. Play would start at 9am each day and continue non-stop into the evening, with the latest finish being around midnight.

“The make-up of the New Zealand team this year often meant we had younger players squaring off against older, more experienced opponents. As our results show, they more than held their own and this experience will really pay off for them in the future,” said the New Zealand team manager, Bernie Endres.

The Massé team ranged in age from 9 to 21-years-old, and for more than half the team, it was their first time competing in an international tournament.

The New Zealand Junior Pool Team was sponsored by cue sports club Massé, which helps to send around 30 senior and junior players each year to the VNEA World Championships in the United States. In the past five years New Zealand pool players have brought home 16 world titles, including the 2019 Teams World Cup after a win against Germany in Las Vegas earlier this year.

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