Junior badminton champs crowned

Kavin Gunasekaran of Pauline Johnson Collegiate returns the shuttle during boys singles at the Brant County high schools junior badminton championships on Wednesday. Brian Thompson / The Expositor

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North Park Collegiate’s Grace Adams and Sharon-Mae Taylor didn’t let a lack of practice get in their way on Wednesday at St. John’s College during the Brant County high school junior badminton championship.

After playing with different partners in different disciplines a year ago, the two Grade 10 students captured the girls doubles championship this year.

“I was kind of worried to be honest,” Adams answered when asked how she thought the team would do at the tournament.

“We had only played one game and we were still kind of figuring things out. At the start it was kind of tricky because we’ve never played together but we built it up pretty quick.”

While most players on a doubles badminton team get a few chances to play together in exhibition matches prior to the Brant County tournament, Adams and Taylor did not have that luxury. The two were just recently paired and they only played a single exhibition match together so that made winning even more of a thrill.

“I’ve been wanting to win a badminton tournament for so long,” said Taylor.

“Even in elementary school I didn’t win a title. Finally!”

All the tournament’s first- and second-place teams advance to the Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association championship on Wednesday in Waterloo and Adams is pumped.

Adams and Taylor were part of a trend that included no division at the championship crowning a returning champion.

In girls singles, this was Grade 9 student Joy Shen’s first crack at a badminton title and she was hoping for big things.

“I wanted to at least place top-two so I could go to CWOSSA,” said Shen, who wound up winning the championship.

As a high school rookie, the exhibition matches the schools play before the Brant County championship gave Shen an opportunity to evaluate herself.

“It was good to see your competition,” the Assumption College student said.

Even though she came away with the title, Shen, who plays club badminton in Burlington, felt she didn’t play her best Wednesday. She has a goal for CWOSSA.

“I’m hoping to be top-three.”

Pauline Johnson Collegiate’s Cameron Gurney improved his final result from last year by one place after winning the boys singles title.

“Succeeding here and finishing first was my main goal,” said the Grade 10 student.

Not playing much badminton, Gurney’s hand-eye co-ordination is helped by playing baseball.

He finished fifth at CWOSSA a year ago.

“I just want to do better than I did last year,” he said.

Despite the fact North Park partners Kevin Vo and Josh Grieve were a new team, it didn’t stop them from having chemistry right off the hop.

The team, which won the boys doubles title Wednesday, had a great series of exhibition games.

“We only lost one game,” said Vo, a Grade 10 student. “We won all the rest of our games.”

It helped that the two play club badminton in Brantford and have known each other for a couple of years.

With their early-season success in the exhibition games, they set a goal for the Brant County championship.

“We came out and wanted to win but make sure we had fun,” said Grieve, a Grade 9 student. “We also wanted to get to CWOSSA.”

To get to the final, and win the championship, they had to defeat their teammates from North Park. Vo knew it would be difficult.

“It was a close game in practice so coming in here and knowing it was best two-of-three, we knew it was going to be tough,” he said.

“They’re also a good team and one of the best teams out here.”

Although Pauline Johnson’s Skylar Groulx and Cassidy Chapin were also a new team this season, they’ve known each other since before high school because their parents are friends.

Both have badminton experience – Groulx made CWOSSA in boys doubles last year in Grade 9 while Chapin had success at the elementary school level before entering Grade 9 in September – so they set a high goal.

“I thought we should make CWOSSA,” said Groulx.

“We wanted to,” added Chapin.

With strong chemistry on the court and a mixed doubles title to boot, Chapin said the objective at CWOSSA is simple.

“We want to try our best and do the best we can,” she said.

In the team standings, NPC came out on top with 82 points. NPC was followed by BCI and PJC, which tied for second with 64 points.

Rounding out the standings were PDHS (60), ACS (46), SJC (33) and Six Nations Polytechnic (10).

The following are the players who placed second at the Brant County championship and who now advance to CWOSSA in Waterloo on Wednesday, along with the first-place finishers.

Tao Fu (ACS), boys singles; Chloe Duval (PJC), girls singles; Jascon Estoesta and Sean Pugh (BCI), boys doubles; Audra Krukowski and Maya Mattu (SJC), girls doubles; and Ashton Spivak and Cameron Spivak (BCI) mixed doubles.

The Brant County senior championships take place on Thursday at BCI.