SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Springfield couple will now have their names in the sports history books forever, and they have some nice hardware to prove it.
Jarrod Smith and Kasandra Gerhke are mixed double national champions in pickleball.
They won the first-ever USA Pickleball National Indoor Championship in Alabama on June 12.
Not all love stories include winning a national championship together but for Smith and Gerhke this has been brewing since summer 2017.
“We met on a pickleball court in a tournament in Michigan,” Smith said.
Two years later, he knew she was the one.
“We got engaged on a pickleball court in a tournament in Illinois,” said Smith.
COVID-19 delayed their wedding date.
So why not face another relationship test for old time’s sake?
Like playing in the USA Pickleball’s first-ever national indoor championship.
“Tons and tons, hundreds of people there competing and you’re just working hard the whole time,” Smith said. “And we had some downfalls. And we had to come back. And we just stayed after it.”
12 teams were in their mixed doubles division.
“We got beat earlier in the day,” Gerhke
By their best friends who are also from Springfield. They rematched them with n the finals.
“When you’re on the court in a national championship like that you have to take all the relationships out of it,” Gerhke said. “You have to pretend you don’t know them.”
But those rules go out the window for the couple’s team.
“The couch is always an option after a pickleball tournament,” Gerhke said.
Luckily, the 15-5 final score kept the couple on good terms.
“That was probably one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever had,” Smith said. “To share such an amazing, incredible moment with the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. It’s pretty indescribable.”
KaSandra: “I don’t cry very often. I was just so happy to share this type of experience with the person I’m in love with.”
The couple won a $1,800 check and a gold medal.
They tell me they hope more pickleball courts can open up in Springfield.
There actually is going to be some pickleball in the park events in the 2021 summer.
Ozarks Pickleball Club and Springfield Greene County Park board are sponsoring “Pickleball in the Park” social events this summer.
The first event is happening on June 23, 2021 from 5:30-8:30pm at Meador Park.
The concession stand will be open. Bringing equipment is recommended, but extras will be available. Also, have a chair and water bottle handy.
The Ozarks Pickleball Club is a non-profit corporation that seeks to promote pickleball in the 417 region.
For more information on this event or how to get involved, visit Ozarks Pickleball Club on Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.