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Athletes of the Issue: Kit Illick: Squash Sensation

Tanner Lee ’23 Assistant Sports Editor
“Kit Illick is a gentleman athlete and a top-level squash player,” according to Coach Whitney Stewart.
Along with Nick Wilkinson ‘21 and Gonzalo de la Mora ‘21, Illick was named captain of Varsity Boys Squash this season, despite the team not having any games due to Covid-19.

Illick started playing squash in first grade, though he, “only started playing seriously in sixth or seventh grade.” Since then, he has played at the New Haven Lawn Club with current teammates Nick Wilkinson ‘21, Gonzalo de la Mora ‘21 and Ethan Yan ‘21.

Illick said he started playing because his two older brothers, Thor Illick ‘18 and Cyrus Illick ‘19, were also players. Illick said, “My dad played squash when he was at Hotchkiss, so that [also] may have been part of the decision [to start playing squash].” Illick’s youngest brother Dwyer ‘26 plays as well.

Illick made the Varsity team in his freshman year and filled the last spot on the roster, seventh. He quickly rose through the ranks of his team, playing fourth in his sophomore season, and taking third spot his junior year. He was then named a captain his senior season, but no official rankings were made this year.

In a normal season, as captain, Illick said that he is “supposed to be the bridge between the coaches and the players.” This season, however, he is in charge of reminding teammates about team Zoom meetings and encouraging players to complete workouts via PLT4M.

Illick had hoped that he would get to put his skills to use to “organize team dinners, make the classic Hopkins Squash T-shirts, and run practices every so often.” Wilkinson said, “Kit is the glue that holds the team together. At Nationals [in previous years], he kept everyone organized, letting them know what time their match was, coaching them, and filling up their water bottles. He also put in work for the ‘Hopkins Squash’ shirts and held team dinners, showing he really cared about the team dynamic.”

Illick has impressed his teammates. de la Mora said, “Kit is a fantastic captain that leads by example. He works hard during practices and per- forms well during matches, and his demeanor and humor contribute greatly to our success.” Teammate Craigin Maloney ‘21 said, “Kit is a great teammate. He’s always kind and compassionate towards everyone on the team, especially the younger or newer players. He is also a hard worker who’s invested in the future of Hopkins Squash. Kit is already a college-level player who I’m sure will do great playing at Colby next year. Kit is a leader in skill and in attitude towards the team.”

Coach Leroy Leong, his coach of six years, inspired and motivated Illick and coached him through the Penang Junior Open. At Hopkins, Illick works with Stewart, who said that Illick is “fully committed to his team and his game. Even before being officially Captain of Boy’s Squash, Kit naturally shared wisdom and can play and challenge any player at any level. He is the best ‘big brother’ to Hopkins Squash, who leads by being a modest yet tough competitor, always polite and effectively a great example for others to follow.”

During his time as a Hopkins Squash player, Illick and his team created lots of lasting memories during matches, team dinners and elsewhere. One of his fondest memories was at Division Two Nationals. Illick recalled, “We were seeded to get 9-13 in a draw of 16 teams. This bracket was for teams ranked 17-32 in the country. We won our first match 7-0. We won our second round, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals matches 4-3. Craigin Maloney ‘21 and Burton Lyng-Olsen [‘20] both won tiebreaker matches to clutch us the win. It is such a great memory because we were the underdogs, we beat Taft, a very difficult opponent, and we won as a team.”

Illick has decided to attend Colby College. He said, “I am hoping to walk onto the Colby squash team.” In leaving Hopkins, Illick only wishes for one thing: “I hope future Hopkins Squash teams continue the [tradition of designing] Hopkins Squash T-shirts.”
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