By Anne Bello
Published Jul 18, 2012 at 7:00 AM ET; Updated Jul 17, 2012 at 9:14 PM ET

Cambridge, MA — Clair Oblamski of Smith College was named the 2012 Wetzel Award winner.

The Wetzel Award is presented annually to a senior who began playing squash in college and has progressed to a high level of skill, demonstrates sound understanding of the game, and exhibits good sportsmanship and a positive demeanor on the court.

To be eligible for this award, candidates may not have played squash before coming to college, and this limitation includes informal play as well as formal instruction. In essence, a player would not have picked up a squash racquet before coming to college.

Candidates for the award are evaluated by a committee of college coaches. The player who wins the award must show outstanding growth technically as a player (records and results), a sound understanding of the rules of squash, and positive on-court poise and demeanor.

The award is named for former University of Pennsylvania coach Ann Wetzel. During the more than 20 years she coached at the University of Pennsylvania, Wetzel taught hundreds of women the game of squash. Wetzel was inducted into the Women’s College Squash Hall of Fame in 1995 and the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame in 2003.

This year’s award was presented at the Women’s National Team Championships (Howe Cup), which were hosted by Harvard University.

Oblamski, who came to Smith from Wisconsin, told SmithPioneers.com that she had never heard of squash before college. She played tennis her first year at Smith and decided to join the squash team during her sophomore year. She had immediate success: after just a week on the team, she competed in a team match against Wellesley and notched a win for the Pioneers playing at #7.

Smith head coach Tim Bacon says that Oblamski was “good right from the start” and “always great at running and hustling,” drawing on her tennis background. However, a match against Northeastern marked a turning point in Oblamski’s squash career. Her opponent pinned her in the back, and Oblamski realized that she would need to make technical adjustments to her game to compete at a higher level.

Since then, Oblamski has made significant improvement in her game, playing — and winning — at #1 and #2 during her senior season, defeating players with years more squash experience. “If Clair keeps playing she has the technical foundation and athletic ability be one of the top 10 players in the country within 3 or 4 years,” Bacon adds.

2012 Women's National Team Championships (Howe Cup): Erin Robson, Wetzel Award Winner Clair Oblamski, Tim Bacon

2012 Women’s National Team Championships (Howe Cup): Erin Robson, Wetzel Award Winner Clair Oblamski, Tim Bacon

A team player, Oblamski helped lead the Pioneers to the 2012 Epps Cup, the team’s best finish in recent years. During her senior year, she co-captained both tennis and squash teams. She also interned at StreetSquash last summer and has helped run a racquet sports clinic at Smith, introducing other new players to squash.

“Clair has grown as leader on the squash team and in the squash community,” Bacon explains on the Smith squash blog.   “Despite being away from the team for her junior spring semester Clair was appointed senior co-captain and has done a great job assuming leadership of the team.  She is also a great role model on the academic side with a GPA qualifying her as a CSA Scholar-Athlete.”

Oblamski is fourth Smith player to win the Wetzel Award, and the first since Jenn Recht won in 2006. More players from Smith have won the Wetzel Award than from any other school.