Hatfield, MA — The finalists for the 2016 Men’s College Squash Association’s Skillman Award have been released: Ahmed Abdel Khalek (Bates College), Amr Khalifa (St. Lawrence University), and Juan Camillo Vargas (Trinity College).
The Skillman Award is given annually to a senior men’s squash player who has demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship during his entire college career. This award is named for former Yale coach John Skillman, who led the Bulldogs to multiple national titles in over 40 years leading the team.
Players are evaluated based on their on-court poise and demeanor, skill level and ability in the game of squash, team play, contributions to intercollegiate squash, leadership, and cooperation with players, coaches, and tournament officials. The Executive Committee selects the winner at the National Team Championships.
The 2015 Skillman Award was presented to Columbia’s Ramit Tandon.
Here are this year’s finalists (listed alphabetically; click on the athletes’ names below to see photos and videos of them playing):
Ahmed Abdel Khalek (Bates College): Upon arriving at Bates, Ahmed Abdel Khalek was the top player for the Bobcats. He earned NESCAC’s Rookie of the Year honors during his debut season. The economics major, who has a concentration in income taxation and charitable giving, is also the only student athlete to be named the NESCAC Player of the Year three times (2013, 2014, and 2015). He was also a three-time member of the NESCAC First Team. As CSA First Team All-American in 2013 and 2015, he was among the best players in collegiate squash. In 2013, he reached the semifinals of the Pool Trophy (men’s individual championship), and he came back from an 0-2 deficit in the finals to capture the Pool Trophy. Abdel Khalek has not lost a match since his freshmen year. According to Bates head coach Pat Cosquer, Abdel Khalek “is a superior talent and both his mental approach and physical preparation toward the game of squash is extraordinary, but the time he has spent and the effort he has made helping his teammates improve will be his lasting legacy.”
Amr Khalifa (St. Lawrence University): St. Lawrence’s rise in the college squash rankings has coincided with the career of Amr Khalifa. Prior to his arrival, the Saints were steadily moving up the rankings, but during his freshman year, they vaulted into the Potter Cup (A Division). Last season, the Saints made it to the Potter Cup final. “Amr is wonderfully concerned and involved senior captain who is truly a well-liked and thoughtful leader for the team. He works well with the typical range of individual characters always present on collegiate squash teams and has helped build what is now a closely-knit group,” comments St. Lawrence head coach Chris Abplanalp. Khalifa capped his first season by defeating two former individual champions to en route to capturing the Pool Trophy (men’s individual championship). In 2014, he finished as the runner up for the Pool Trophy. The economics major was the 2013 Liberty League Rookie of the Year; the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Liberty League Player of the Year; 2013, 2014, and 2015 All-Liberty League Team member; and a three-time member of the Liberty League championship squad. Khalifa was a First-Team All-American in 2013 and 2014.
Juan Camillo Vargas (Trinity College): During his collegiate career, Juan Camillo Vargas has helped continue Trinity’s tradition of national team championship victories. As a freshmen he clinched the Potter Cup (national championship) for the Bantams. “His immediate impact as a freshman was immeasurable as he won the deciding match against Harvard, facing Brandon McLaughlin to bring home the national crown to Hartford,” explains Trinity head coach Paul Assaiante. In 2015, he once again captured his match as Trinity won the Potter Cup in front of their home crowd. Vargas is a dual major in international studies and anthropology who has helped Trinity capture the 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 NESCAC Championships. He was named to the NESCAC First Team in 2013 and 2015, and to the Second Team in 2014. Last season, he was named to the NESCAC All-Academic squad. Trinity’s captain has been a three-time Second Team All-American.