Emerging from a towering inferno, Camille Lanier dives across the court and stretches her body in hopes of returning a ball. The advertisement, which stands near the entrance of Georgetown’s posh Sports Club/LA, attempts to draw attention toward the 18-year-old’s appearance in this week’s Squash on Fire tournament.
Squash is a relatively anonymous sport in the District, and Lanier said the aim of the tournament, which opens Thursday, is to bring in national talent while creating a buzz in the area.
“I wish he would have done it earlier,” Lanier laughed. “It would have made more sense.”
Earlier this year, Lanier was ranked third in the nation as a junior player. She competed in her third straight Under-19 European Championship, playing as part of the Portuguese National team.
Through her mother, Isabel, Lanier possesses dual citizenship and is the team’s top female-singles player. Lanier finished in 12th place at April’s tournament in Portugal.
The Portuguese team first discovered Lanier while she was playing in Spain with a group of top-American youth players. After a match, Lanier approached the players in hopes of acquiring a Portugal shirt.
“Then they saw me play and it was a like a lightbulb went off, and they attacked my parents,” Lanier said. “They needed a girl player.”
Lanier graduated from National Cathedral School and will enroll this month at the University of Pennsylvania. She’ll play squash, as each Ivy League school has a team, and is leaning toward majoring in architecture.
This weekend’s tournament will be Lanier’s third professional tournament but her first since leaving the junior division. Most of her opposition will be older.
“A lot of them have been doing this for years,” Lanier said. “Definitely experience-wise, they’ll have an advantage.”
Lanier played soccer and lacrosse when she was younger and only began playing squash as a way to stay active during the winter. Her mother then started a camp at the sports club to keep her involved. Two years ago, she began traveling to Baltimore to train with four-time NCAA champion Lefika Ragontse.
She was able to configure her high school schedule in order to end classes by noon and then travel by car or train to Baltimore. She’d be back home by 5 p.m. and eat dinner before she started her three or four hours of homework.
“It was really difficult,” Lanier said. “But over the years I learned how to manage it and National Cathedral was really helpful.”