Just like the road conditions that limited participation for out-of-town players, the provincial junior badminton championships last weekend at Olds presented challenges for Stettler entries.
Half-a-dozen Stettler juniors were in the thick of the action — and the storm — as most of them commuted daily for the three-day tournament. For some of them, winter weather nixed their Saturday and Sunday games.
The Stettler delegation competed in the junior B provincials, except for John Langford, who moved up to the junior A level for a test against the best.
“It went all right,” said Langford, 15. “I lost my first one, but then I got a bye and then won. I had a (consolation) final I was supposed to play on Sunday, but I couldn’t go because the roads were too bad.”
Langford’s lone loss came Friday night against Nathan Wong, who won 21-10, 21-17.
“He was a good player,” Langford said. “I know him.
“I played all right. He’s just better than me in some things and I’ve got to work on some things.”
Langford beat Michael Suey 21-15, 19-21, 21-15 to stay alive on the consolation side.
While the club season has ended, school badminton is just beginning.
Langford, a Grade 9 student at William E. Hay Composite High School, is gearing up for his final junior high season, including the CARA tournament and probable CWAJHAA championships.
“It would be a nice end to the year,” he said. “It would be nice to win, especially when you’re done (junior high).”
Last year, he won the Grade 8 boys’ singles championship at the CWAJHAA tournament.
A couple of other CWAJHAA medallists last season, Kyle Poapst of Stettler and Ryland Stefanik of Big Valley, were teammates last weekend at the provincials.
Poapst and Stefanik, both 15-year-olds and Grade 9 students, were the silver-medallists in the under-16 boys’ doubles. In the final Sunday, they lost 21-17, 21-12 to the top-ranked tandem of Brandon Chiu and Mark Lisoway.
“We thought we might have a decent chance against them, because they are just two good players, but they hadn’t played together before,” Poapst said. “But they played well together. They outplayed us in that game — a lot of unforced errors on my part, too. We just didn’t play well as a team.
“I don’t think we warmed up enough, either of us. Both of Ryland’s contacts fell out in his singles game in the morning, and he didn’t have anymore, I don’t think, so that was tough. … But we played all right (overall).”
The second-ranked team of Poapst and Stefanik got off to a solid start in doubles play Saturday, with a 21-14, 21-18 victory over Stephen Martinson and Nicholas Murray. Later in the day, the Stettler clubmates topped Eric McMurphy and Daniel Wensrich 21-19, 17-21, 21-12.
“Our semifinal match was pretty tough,” Poapst said of the three-game win.
Stefanik and Poapst complement each other with an aggressive style. When they’re in sync, “we move the other team around,” Poapst said. “We try to attack a lot.”
The badminton partners were also Stettler bantam B hockey teammates this past winter, and they plan to play baseball together this summer as part of Stettler’s new bantam AA team.
At the badminton provincials, they also competed in under-16 boys’ singles, as Stefanik finished fourth. His 21-18, 21-16 loss in the bronze-medal game came against Wensrich, whom Stefanik had defeated 25-23, 18-21, 21-19 in round-robin action Friday.
“My first game in round-robin, I lost to the kid who finished up getting second (Bennett Yung), and in the quarter-finals, I lost to the No. 1 seed (Lisoway), who ended up winning,” Poapst said.
“We know Mark (Lisoway) pretty well. Him and John (Langford) usually have good games. … This is the last year Mark’s coach is letting him play B.”
Lisoway is a member of the Edison badminton club in Okotoks.
Up next for Poapst and Stefanik is school competition, though they can’t compete as partners because they attend different schools — Stefanik in Big Valley and Poapst at William E. Hay.
Poapst plans to cap his junior high badminton years within a few weeks at the CARA tournament.
“But I won’t be at CWAJHAA this year, because of a band trip to Disneyland,” Poapst said.
High school student Taylor Chase of Stettler performed well at the junior B provincials before Saturday’s storm stranded him at home and put him out of contention.
Competing in the under-19 boys’ singles division Friday, Chase beat Keiran Sawatzky 21-10, 21-14.
Chase is part of William E. Hay’s high school team, which will compete for berths at the provincials, set for May 3 and 4 at Calgary.