New Castle resident takes home three gold medals at pickleball U.S. Open
New Castle resident Daria Stakiw-Harlow may only have a handful of years of pickleball experience under her belt, but her success within the sport continues to shine.
In a trio of events that took place at the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida, she displayed that success, ending the tournament with three gold medals dangling from her neck.
The seventh annual Minto U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, which hosts more than 100 events and attracts athletes from 29 countries across the world, is the premier amateur pickleball tournament globally. A tournament that hosts divisions for competitors ages eight to 88 years old, the tournament has helped in the growth of pickleball in recent years.
One of thousands of competitors to participate in this year’s tournament, Stakiw-Harlow walked away with a gold medal in the women’s open age division, 5.0 bracket; mixed open age division, 5.0 bracket; and the women’s 30 to 40 age division, 5.0 bracket. In the women’s 30 to 40 age division, she landed on top of the podium alongside teammate and Aspen resident Lauren Anderson.
A feat that’s no ordinary task, Stakiw-Harlow’s coach and recent National Pickleball League draftee Tao Thongvanh knows his student’s recent accomplishments did not come without hard work.
“She’s an excellent player,” Thongvanh said. “She’s athletic, she moves well and she plays smart and knows what her task is when she steps on the court.”
In addition to Stakiw-Harlow’s success on the court, the 5.4-rated pickleball player, who is one of the top three highest-rated players in the state, said her takeaways go beyond her success.
“Seeing the all-inclusiveness of the sport was something that I thought was extremely cool to see last week,” she said. “Not only seeing the wide range of ages throughout the tournament, but watching the wheelchair events and seeing how athletic and skilled these players have to be was really incredible to watch.”
While the all-inclusivity of the sport is one topic of discussion that caught her eye, she said she was also stunned by the growth of the sport.
“To have 100 or more events, obviously you have to have a lot of people wanting to participate, and it’s not like the tournament took just anyone,” she said. “This sport is quickly growing, and it’s exciting to see so many people finding interest, especially around the valley.”
With only a few pickleball exclusive courts currently found in the Roaring Fork Valley, plans to add more in areas such as Basalt, Rifle and the Aspen Glen neighborhood have become a recurring topic of conversation throughout the community. Roaring Fork Pickleball Association (RFPA) President Trevor Cannon of Carbondale said the implementation of more courts is a good idea due to the growth the valley has seen in those picking up the sport.
“In the last month, we have seen a 15% increase in members joining our club,” he said. “We have gone from 325 members to almost 400 members just in the past couple weeks, so the sport is definitely getting more popular out here, and I think it’s great that areas around the valley are trying to give the community more access to the sport.”
A member of the RFPA since 2018 but most recently becoming president of the club in fall 2022, he said he has a good idea as to why the sport has grown so quickly.
“It’s really something that anyone can do,” Cannon said. “You don’t have to be an insane athlete to not only play the sport, but be good at the sport. Obviously for people like Daria, her athleticism has helped her become the player that she is, but it really is a sport where you can just go out and have fun.”
A board-certified doctor who owns Rocky Mountain Audiology in Glenwood Springs and Edwards while also sitting at the highest amateur level there is in the sport, Stakiw-Harlow is not quite ready to make that jump to the professional ranks.
“I’m a 5.4 on the DUPR ratings, and a 5.5 settles the definition between amateur and pro,” she said. “Because I own two clinics and have kids, I am happy with where I am right now. When I am able to retire or work part-time, that jump up is absolutely going to be a goal of mine.”
She will next compete in the Texas Open on June 1, where she will hope to carry her current momentum into another first-place finish.
Post Independent education and sports reporter Taylor Cramer can be reached at 970-384-9108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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