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Racquetball reflects life

Despite needing to take a few instances to catch his breath during his first match on Saturday, Greg Kontz believes the sport of racquetball fittingly reflects how hard work can counteract the affects of age.

Despite needing to take a few instances to catch his breath during his first match on Saturday, Greg Kontz believes the sport of racquetball fittingly reflects how hard work can counteract the affects of age.

"The nice thing is you get out there and you can't blame anybody but yourself," said Kontz, a 54-year-old Dickinson resident. "If you're getting really good shots and you're doing smart things, you're going to do alright. If you go out there and do dumb things or you're not working hard, it's not going to work.

"It's a very good comparison to life."

Kontz was one of 62 players of all ages that participated in the 19th annual Fisher Industries Tournament at the West River Community Center. The tournament began Friday and concludes today.

Kontz was competing in the men's open division - the tournament's most competitive group.

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He knows the game racquetball is the only way he can athletically compare himself to physically fit younger men.

"Name me another sport - an aerobic sport - where you can be a 55-year-old grandfather that smokes a pack a day and you can beat a 25-, 30-year-old and get a good workout," said Kontz, an equipment information manager at Fisher Industries.

The tournament, which was held at the former Interstate Fitness facility prior to the opening of the West River Community Center, has increased in popularity according to WRCC recreation supervisor Wilson McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, who lost to Kontz early Saturday, said the influx of youth in the Dickinson racquetball community is helping the tournament succeed.

"One of the really great things is we have ages from 10 up until 50-some, which has been a really big difference," said McLaughlin. "The older people are starting to get older and not playing in tournaments. But, as we start getting the younger players playing, they're starting to slowly move up and fill in the divisions."

One of those players is 10-year-old Nick Himmelspach of Dickinson, who competed in the 12-and-under division. Himmelspach started playing racquetball at age 8 after his mother took up the sport.

"I like meeting new people and going new places," Himmelspach said. "I like the sport, it's just fun to hang around with friends."

But the tournament wasn't just a boys club. About 15 women and girls participated as well.

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Bismarck Century High School senior Megan Bosch played in the tournament with her family and was one of a handful of out-of-town participants that also included players from Grand Forks, Minot, and Baker, Mont.

"My dad's always played racquetball, so we started as a family," said Bosch, who also plays tennis for Century.

Bosch said Dickinson's tournament had an average amount of women competitors compared to others she has been to.

However, from her recent experiences, Bosch gathers that the number of women playing racquetball around the state appears to be gradually increasing.

"I'd love to have more women play," she said. "Each year we see a couple more new ones, so that's always fun."

Despite being a grandfather and an admitted smoker, Kontz said he'll continue playing the sport as long as he can because of the impact it has had on maintaining his health.

"Your coordination stays a lot better. You jack up your metabolic rate. Things just work a lot better," Kontz said. "It's a use-it-or-lose-it world and racquetball makes you use pretty much everything."

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