First presented in 1983, the Barnaby Award recognizes the most improved team in men’s college squash. Coaches vote on the award at the Men’s National Team Championships, and the award is usually presented at the awards ceremony during championships. This year’s award was presented to Columbia at Princeton, NJ, the main site of the 2012 Men’s National Team Championships.
The award is named for Jack Barnaby, who coached the Harvard men for decades and later coached the Harvard women. Harvard struggled during the first few years of Barnaby’s tenure, but the Crimson ultimately became a national powerhouse under his leadership, winning national title after national title. By the time he retired in 1976, Barnaby had compiled a 355-95 lifetime record. His team capped his final season with a national title, going undefeated.
This is the second year in a row that Columbia has won the Barnaby Award. The 2010-2011 season was the Lions’ first as a varsity program. Before last year, the team had never cracked the top thirty, and they finished last season on the threshold of the top twenty, ranked 21st in the nation.
While that improvement was impressive, this year’s jump was even more so. A year ago, the Lions were almost — but not quite — a top-twenty team. This year, they finished in the top ten, making it all the way to the Hoehn Cup (B Division) finals. En route to the finals, Columbia pulled off not one but two dramatic 5-4 upsets of higher ranked, well established teams: Navy and Williams.
The Lions had already made a statement before the tournament with their play during the regular season. Playing a full Ivy League schedule for the first time, they notched their first Ivy victory over Brown in January.
Columbia also had its first chance at a national title, thanks to freshman stand-out Ramit Tandon, who made it to the finals of the men’s Individual Championships. Tandon lost in three to Harvard’s Ali Farag, but his spectacular play in the first two games of the final marked him as one to watch in the coming years.
It’s not just Tandon who’s one to watch, though: if Columbia sustains this level of improvement, a shot at the national team title may not be out of question.
Columbia is led by head coach Jacques Swanepoel.