Justin Slater said he was quote-unquote "inspired" by the CrokinoleCentre 20s World Records post that debuted a couple weeks prior to the 2019 Golden Horseshoe Crokinole Tournament. And if this is what an "inspired" Justin Slater looks like, then the entire crokinole world has surely been put on notice, as Slater set a new world record (for real this time) and cakewalked to victory in Hamilton.
42 players were in attendance on the early January 26th morning, with one tournament organizer praising a "weather vortex" for the strong attendance, as Winter storms had occurred earlier in the week and another was reported to be coming in the days following the event. The field was split into 4 separate groups for the morning round robin.
Jon Conrad was tops in Pool A with 66 points and 102 20s in 10 games, and Roy Campbell was 2nd with 59 points and a pool-high 118 20s. The final spot in the afternoon A group went to Eric Miltenburg at 55 points, just two ahead of Andrew Korchok.
Nathan Walsh was tops in Pool B with 65 points. While 2nd spot at 62 points went to Reid Tracey who, along with his brother, was
looking like Agent Smith from the Matrix fulfilling millennial stereotypes with a single earbud constantly in place throughout the day. The 3rd spot in the group was a 3-way tie at 47 points, in which Robbie Thuot earned the final A group spot in the afternoon ahead of Clare Kuepfer and Bev Vaillancourt.
Pools C and D played round robins of 9 games, but that didn't stop Justin Slater from still scoring over 100 20s, hitting 105, and finishing tops in Pool C with 58 points. Fred Slater scored 50, and Jason Beierling scored 49 to make the A group. Joe Arnup made his long-awaiting return to the NCA Tour after a nearly 6 year absence to finish 4th in the group with 46 points. Which was especially impressive considering he was so far removed from the game that he asked for a refresher on rules, but clearly the crokinole muscle memory came back to him easily. Ray Beierling finished first in Pool D with 60 points and 80 20s, followed by Jeremy Tracey at 45 and Roger Vaillancourt at 44 points. Christina Campbell finished on the bubble with 39 points for 4th in the group.
In the afternoon, Groups B, C and D were fighting for one of the top 2 spots to make their respective final, while Group A would cut down to 4 and play a semifinals. In Group D, Garret Tracey earned the highest scores in both points and 20s with 57 and 64 respectively through 9 games. He was joined in the final by another young gun, Roy Perez, who was making his NCA debut and grabbed the second seed with 50 points, beating out Garry Wood in 3rd at 47 points. In the best of 3 final, Tracey fell behind early, losing game one 6-2 to Perez. But Tracey bounced back and took games two and three, each by scores of 6-2 to win the D title, in what was the only playoff match to need all 3 games.
Group C was very tight as only 5 points separated 1st from 5th in the round robin, ultimately robbing crokinole spectators of what could have been multiple thrillingly competitive playoff matches had the playoff format included more than just a single finals match. Janet Waite finished 5th in the group with 39 points, Nathan Quigley had 40 for 4th, and Maradyn Wood had 41 for 3rd. It was Abijah Jong at 42 points and Michael Meleg at 44 moving onto the final. Jong came through in the Group C championship over Meleg, winning the match 6-2, 5-1.
Group B featured a number of strong players who had just missed the Group A cut in the morning and were continuing to show fine form. Peter Carter finished 3rd in the group with 39 points, ahead of Christina Campbell at 37, and Beverly Vaillancourt at 36. Joe Arnup continued to show only minimal signs of rust, racking up 47 points for the top seed in the group, while Rueben Jong found the second spot in the finals at 43 points. While his son was simultaneously winning his final match despite the lower seed, Rueben Jong was doing the same as he took the match by a score of 6-4, 6-0.
The afternoon Group A had several strong 20 shooters, more than a few of which knew the possibilities that existed in Hamilton, the only NCA tournament featuring the crokinole boards that are made by Jake Ruggi and seem to be designed for scoring 20s. Of the 12 players in the round robin, 8 scored enough 20s to average more than 100 20s over 10 games. Jason Beierling scored 49 points and 143 20s (which normalizes to 130 over 10 games), but was only enough for 6th place.
Ray Beierling and Reid Tracey tied for 4th place at 51 points, but it was Tracey earning the tiebreaker thanks to head-to-head 20s (which was needed after the two tied their match 4-4 points, and Tracey earned the edge by a 20 score of 10-9). Nathan Walsh banked points early in the round robin before slowing down in the last few games to finish 3rd at 53 points, while Roy Campbell was hanging onto the frame of the playoff picture until dominating the final few games to finish 2nd at 55 points. Top spot in the group went to Justin Slater who created a chasm between himself and the rest of the field at 68 points.
Of course the more notable accomplishment, from a record standpoint, was that of the 20s scores. Very early on in the round robin it was clear that Ray Beierling and Justin Slater, just like they have in the last decade at the World Championship, would have the top 20 scores. But the question was if either could break the world record, set by Brian Cook in 2011 at the Hamilton event with 138 20s in 9 games (normalizes to 153.3 in 10 games). They would need a 169 over 11 games to surpass the mark.
Early on Ray Beierling had the slight edge, and after 7 games he had 115 20s, which was on pace for 180, while Justin Slater had 102 20s (on pace for 160). But the difference came in the final games of the round robin as Beierling's pace slowed, ultimately finishing at 150 20s (still good enough for 9th all-time).
Meanwhile Justin Slater turned it on in the final games to finish with 181 20s (normalizes to 164.5 20s in 10 games) for a new world record. It was previously reported in 2018 that Slater's 160 20s in 11 games in Hamilton was a world record, until some further research discovered the long-standing record from Cook. However, this record should have no debate.
The record was buoyed by an astonishing 25 20s in just 4 rounds of crokinole against Jason Beierling, who should take a good deal of credit as he hit 21 20s in that game. That's still not quite as impressive as the time at the 2012 St. Jacobs tournament when Justin Slater and Jason Beierling's head-to-head match had 2 perfect rounds for each, but at least this Hamilton match was caught on camera.
To elaborate on the extent of this 20s record further, Slater now holds the record for most 20s in a round robin of at least 4 games, and had there been a 12th game, he could have scored 0 20s and set the record for the most 20s in a round robin of at least 12 games.
A day of such accomplishments does make one ponder about other records that may have been set, such as "most points in an afternoon A Group" or "largest points difference between first and second in an afternoon A Group." But the marks from Justin Slater on this day weren't enough for those records, both of which are held by Ray Beierling.
NCA Record - Highest Points/Game in 2nd Round Group A or WCC Playoff (min 4 games)
|1||Ray Beierling||2015||London||Round 2 - Pool A||8||53||82||6.625|
|2||Nathan Walsh||2014||WCC||Round of 16 - Pool B||7||45||66||6.429|
|3||Justin Slater||2015||Belleville||Round 2 - Pool A||9||57||101||6.333|
|4||Justin Slater||2014||WCC||Round of 16 - Pool B||7||44||94||6.286|
|5||Justin Slater||2018||London||Round 2 - Pool A||10||62||99||6.2|
NCA Record - Largest gap between 1st and 2nd - Points/Game in 2nd Round Group A or WCC Playoff (min 4 games)
|1||Ray Beierling||2015||London||Round 2 - Pool A||8||53||82||6.625||1.875|
|T2||Justin Slater||2012||WCC||Round of 16 - Pool B||7||43||90||6.143||1.429|
|T2||Jon Conrad||2012||WCC||Round of 16 - Pool A||7||41||67||5.857||1.429|
Group A Playoffs
Getting on to the Group A semifinals, Justin Slater was gunning for his 7th consecutive singles title, and faced off against Reid Tracey who had earned his second straight top 4 finish (and coincidentally his second straight top 4 finish via a tiebreaker for 4th). Despite being a 1st vs 4th seed matchup, it was probably the least favourable opponent for Slater, considering that Slater won every game in the afternoon round robin, with the exception of the draw to Reid Tracey. And the match lived up to the expectation as the players fought on a level playing ground and traded rounds back-and-forth. Slater won game one, but with Tracey up 4-2 it looked like the match would need a third game, but a strategy error from Tracey extended the second game into a tiebreaker, where Slater won the match 6-2, 6-4.
In the other semifinal, Roy Campbell faced off against Nathan Walsh in what was the 3rd playoff meeting between the two. Roy Campbell won the first, which was the Group B championship at the 2013 Hamilton event, while Walsh won the second in the semifinals of the 2016 Belleville tournament. The match contained a number of twists and turns, and what it lacked in consistent quality, it made up for in drama as Campbell won the match 6-4, 6-4 after overcoming a 4-0 deficit in the second game.
That setup a rematch of the finals of the 2016 Ontario Singles Championship and 2018 Turtle Island event, both of which were very competitive matches that went the way of Justin Slater. However, early hopes of Roy Campbell flipping the script began to evaporate as 20 opportunities for Campbell bounced out of the hole with great umbrage, while Slater consistently executed his shots on his way to a 6-2, 6-0 victory, and his 3rd Golden Horseshoe title.
The victory extends Justin Slater's lead on the 2018-2019 NCA Tour, as he sits with 200 points and can clinch the NCA title with a victory in either the London or St. Jacobs tournaments. Further to that, only Ray Beierling and Jason Beierling can deny Slater winning the NCA Tour this season, and they would need victories in both of the London and St. Jacobs tournaments to do so.
Speaking of the London tournament, it is coming up (some might say very soon) on March 23rd, but this will be left with one final word on the Golden Horseshoe Crokinole tournament from Eric Miltenburg: "Thanks every. I don't know how this tournament comes together so well every year... it must be because of all of you."