SquashBusters Derby Raises Record $1.38M; 10-Year Champ Wallbanger Retires

Members of Team Wallbanger after winning their tenth SquashBusters Derby.
SquashBusters Boston senior Karyme Veliz-Gomez spoke about her time in the program.

Team Wallbanger lapped the field to win the 2018 MFS SquashBusters Derby, notching its tenth victory in a row at the program’s 12th annual fundraising event held over the May 3-5 weekend.

But like every good thoroughbred, there comes a time to retire from the track.

With a storied history of eleven races, 40 individual jockeys, and an astounding $2,500,000+ in aggregate team contributions, Wallbanger founder and ex-captain Amrit Kanwal took a moment during his program remarks representing lead Derby sponsor MFS, to announce that the 2018 Derby would be Wallbanger’s last. With the support of Co-Captains Charlie Humber and Jon Hyett, Wallbanger’s all-black livery, the thrum of their three-thump war cry, and the teams incredible desire to win – both on the fundraising front and the squash court – will become the stuff of Derby legend.

Fear not, though, for the Wallbanger spirit lives on. Its members will carry their support of SquashBusters to other teams, and a new generation bucked at the stable door this year. SquashBusters Chair and Salubrious Captain John Blasberg invited sixteen-year-old Jack Winston to co-captain his team and fill all the singles slots with highly-rated young challengers. While the teenagers could not overturn Wallbanger in round robin play, they did finish second in the Preakness Pool and raised more than $120,000.

For the second year in a row, Wallbanger faced three-year-old Unbridled in the Derby final, prevailing once again over the all-women’s team in a new shootout format by the dominating score of 26-8. Wallbanger crushed the fundraising competition as well, closing with an amazing $398,903 at the time this went to print. Derby Worthy was the no. 2 fundraiser at $193,615. With Derby Co-Chair and doubles player Jeannie Blasberg’s personal fundraising of $28,270 in the lead, Unbridled raised just over $150,000 as a team.

Overall, more than 96 amateur players, a dozen team captains, 32 juniors, and sixteen elite pros took to the doubles courts at the University Club and the singles courts at SquashBusters in an 8-team race full of fun, festivities and incredible generosity.  MFS led the way as the Derby’s Title Sponsor, but major thanks are also due to Will Muggia and Westfield Capital Management, who increased their Diamond sponsorship to $100,000 this year, and Gold Sponsors Peter Palandjian and Intercontinental Real Estate, Digger Donahue and Brown Brothers Harriman, and Steve Birch, Greg Jannetta and William O’Neil + Co.

Event Co-Chair and Wallbanger honorary captain David Drubner repeated as the prestigious Secretariat Award winner, bringing in an incredible $88,500 in individual donations, while super-supporters Sandy Tierney, Amrit Kanwal, Will Muggia, and George Bell were in close pursuit the entire way. Significant personal contributions also came from David and Lisa Antonelli, George Bell and Carrie Minot Bell, John and Jeannie Blasberg, Ralph and Janice James, Don and Susan Mykrantz, and Robert and Donna Manning.

Elite squash pros John Roberts, Clinton Leeuw, Dan Sharplin, Nick Taylor, Amanda Sobhy, Wael El Hindi, David Palmer and Peter Nicol generously donated their time and talents to the Derby.[/caption]On the squash front, some of the sport’s best-loved and most successful professionals donated their time, talents and enthusiasm to ensure the Derby was a success. Returning for the 10th time were World Champion Peter Nicol and local hero and coach Dan Sharplin. Adding excitement to the pro singles competition were 2-time World Champion David Palmer, USA #1 Amanda Sobhy, World Masters 45+ Champion Nick Taylor, Clinton Leeuw, John Roberts and Egyptian star Wael El Hindi. Elite doubles pros included SDA stars Mike Ferreira, Yvain Badan, Graham Bassett, and Raj Nanda; WSDA champion Dana Betts, as well as Hameed Ahmed, Gary Waite, and Chris Walker. Other notables included Mark Talbott, John Nimick, Kenton and Kevin Jernigan, celebrity chef and former Yale star Ming Tsai, and Scott Dulmage.

Elite squash pros John Roberts, Clinton Leeuw, Dan Sharplin, Nick Taylor, Amanda Sobhy, Wael El Hindi, David Palmer and Peter Nicol generously donated their time and talents to the Derby.

New Director of Squash at INFINITUM Squash in Sudbury, MA, Nick Taylor organized the third year of the Derby’s Junior Stakes competition on Saturday morning, bringing together 16 young players from the greater Boston community and 16 SquashBusters students for 2 hours of drills, competition and teamwork.

SquashBusters student speaker Karyme Veliz-Gomez was the star of the evening program, highlighting the pathway SquashBusters and the sport of squash have illuminated for her as she looks forward to graduating high school and becoming the first in her family to attend a four-year college with her enrollment at UMass Boston this fall.

Founder Greg Zaff concluded the 2018 Derby weekend by thanking everyone who contributed to the record-setting fundraising total of $1,381,725, and by identifying the one thing that was there at the beginning of SquashBusters and still continues to propel its students, staff, Board, volunteers, and himself: love.

SquashBusters would like to thank Marilyn Humphries and Chessin Gertler for capturing the event. Please feel free to check out more of the great photos:
May 3: Doubles at the University Club (Photos by Chessin Gertler)
May 4: Doubles at the University Club (Photos by Marilyn Humphries)
May 5: Singles at SquashBusters (Photos by Marilyn Humphries)