Taylor Chase

Taylor Chase

Chase tracks zone gold, provincial berth

No one could catch Taylor Chase of Stettler at the high school zone badminton championships Saturday in Red Deer.

No one could catch Taylor Chase of Stettler at the high school zone badminton championships Saturday in Red Deer.

Chase was unbeaten en route to winning the intermediate boys’ singles division at Hunting Hills High School.

Chase, a Grade 11 student, represents William E. Hay Composite High School of Stettler, where he also plays with the town’s junior badminton club.

His club expertise was evident Saturday as he finished off opponents in short order and punched his ticket to this weekend’s provincial high school championships in Calgary.

“Taylor took no prisoners — he played smart and placed his shots well,” said William E. Hay coach Chris Langford. “He did not lose a game all day.

“I am very happy for him. He has taken his training with the junior badminton club much more seriously and he is seeing the payoff.”

Chase, 16, emerged from his four-man pool and went on to post semifinal and final victories over Wainwright and Tofield opponents, respectively.

“I didn’t really know many of the players, to be honest,” he said of the central Alberta field.

“I played pretty well, I thought, throughout the day.”

Langford said Chase didn’t give up more than 12 points a game in each of his three round-robin matches.

In the semifinals, Chase beat Provost’s Curtis Fleck, a St. Thomas Aquinas student whom Chase had defeated a week earlier in the area championship at Wainwright.

In the gold-medal match, Chase outdid another club player, Ben Schmidt, 21-16, 21-14.

“He’s at about the same level as a lot of the club players,” Chase said. “I think I just played better than normal. He was a little more tired, so I guess that helped me a little bit.”

Chase fine-tuned his game this winter playing with the competitive Stettler junior club.

“It’s nice to play against guys like John (Langford) at club,” he said. “John is the kind of player that really exploits your weaknesses, so I think this year, we started putting a lot more time into practice. He really helps to make you work on what you’re bad at. That really helped to (minimize) those errors.

“The last couple of years, it was always just (a case of) me making unforced errors. Even Mrs. Langford said that that was probably my weakest area. So I think I just try to cut down on those now, as much as I can. I found that the other guys were making the mistakes more often this weekend, so that helped a lot.”

The club competitors began their season in early September, while the high school season is only about a month old.

“Not so much the Highway 12 and the area (competitions), but toward zones, you start to see a couple of more club faces here and there,” Chase said.

“But a lot of the club players won’t do the school tournaments. I don’t know if they find it too easy, or what it is.”

Chase, who has been playing badminton for about five years, is the lone Stettler representative bound for the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association championships, which are set for Friday and Saturday at Bishop O’Byrne and Henry Wise Wood schools.

Chase also plays competitive soccer, and his Stettler under-18 team kicks off its season this Saturday with the Sunbreaker soccer tournament in Camrose.

If he’s no longer in medal contention Saturday afternoon at the badminton provincials, Chase plans to make the trip to Camrose to join his soccer teammates.

In the winter months, Chase is a Stettler minor hockey on-ice official. He used to play minor hockey.

While he’s the lone Wildcat at this week’s badminton provincials, Chase believes more Stettler candidates are on board in the next few years.

“Next year, with John (Langford) and Kyle (Poapst) and Ryland (Stefanik) all moving up to high school, we’ll hopefully get a couple of more faces going,” he said.

Stettler’s badminton community showed its support for Chase and company on the high school stage.

“I’d like to thank the parents and families who came to support the athletes,” said coach Langford.

“Although badminton is considered an individual sport, all of the players end up training together, and contributing to each other’s success. It felt great to hear a big group clapping to acknowledge Taylor’s first-place finish.”