Local high school badminton champions crowned

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North Park Collegiate’s Niamh Kukla and Lily Song are hoping a hometown advantage next week will lead to a second badminton championship.

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Song and Kukla captured the junior girls badminton championship on Wednesday at St. John’s College during the Athletic Association of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk tournament.

The pair will compete at the Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association championship on April 20 at Brantford Collegiate Institute. Normally CWOSSA is held in Kitchener-Waterloo so the NPC duo will try to use the fact it’s being played in Brantford to their advantage.

“I know we’re facing some harder competition because we’re going to be facing teams from places we haven’t played before and this tournament was all teams we’ve played before,” Kukla said.

“The good thing is we’re on familiar territory,” added Song. “It’s going to be at BCI instead of Waterloo. We have the chance to warm up quicker because everyone is coming from everywhere. ”

For Kukla and Song, their partnership was a long time coming.

The pair went to elementary school with each other and each played singles. They were planning on making a change but that was halted due to the pandemic.

“In Grade 8, before COVID-19, we were going to do doubles together but then it got shut down,” Kukla said.

When the high school championship resumed this season after a two-year absence, they finally got together as a team.

“Our coach. . . She decided to pair us up together because, one we’ve known each other since elementary and two, we’re singles players and know how to dominate the court, “said Song.

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Now they’ll get a chance to cement their partnership even further next week.

BOYS DOUBLES

Brantford Collegiate Institute’s Christiansen Adiwinata and Andrew Nemeth made a splash in their Grade 9 badminton season.

The pair not only captured the boys double championship, they did it by going unbeaten.

Nemeth said they weren’t surprised at their result because during the badminton exhibition season they experienced quite a bit of success.

“We had a tight match against North Park which was 21-15,” said Nemeth. “That was the one tough match.”

“We wanted first place,” Adiwinata said of the team’s goal on Wednesday. “We were going for the win.”

Now that they have the championship under their belts, the goal is to do the same thing at CWOSSA next week although they know it won’t be easy.

“I’m excited,” Nemeth said. “We want to get (first) but we’re not sure. It’s going to be harder. “

MIXED DOUBLES

Duncan Sanderson and Abigail Nichols may have previous experience playing badminton but that didn’t mean they were confident at the AABHN championship.

“Today we were kind of nervous because it was such a big (tournament) and we knew everyone was going to be trying their best,” said Sanderson.

“When we got playing we got used to it.”

That was obvious as the Grade 9 team was able to capture the mixed doubles championship.

Nichols said the partnership may have been new but they had past history.

“We’ve played before,” said Nichols, who thanked her coaches and praised her opponents. “Years ago we were at the same club so we’ve known each other.”

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During the AABHN exhibition season the BCI pair won all its games but one so they knew going into the championship tournament a title was possible.

With the championship, they now want another one at CWOSSA.

“Our goal is to get first, hopefully, but we’re just going to try our best and see what happens,” Sanderson said.

BOYS SINGLES

Matthew Tinker took the rubber match against North Park Collegiate teammate Alex Hallet on Wednesday and along with that he claimed the AABHN boys singles championship.

Tinker entered the AABHN tournament with confidence.

“I’m not trying to be cocky but I expected to win because in all the exhibition games, I didn’t lose an exhibition game,” the Grade 10 student said.

However, in the first match on Wednesday against Hallet, Tinker suffered the loss.

“He played a really great game,” Tinker said of his opponent. “Every single shot he was hitting went on the line. I was really surprised. It was quite the battle. “

After Tinker won the second game of the day between the two, they went to the final where Tinker won in a walkover.

“We started the final and he rolled his ankle,” Tinker said.

The win earned Tinker a berth at CWOSSA where he has a goal.

“I hope to get top-four,” he said. “I don’t want to lose every match but I know there will be some people who are really, really good.

“I just want to have some fun.”

GIRLS SINGLES

A switch in racquets led to added success for Pauline Johnson Collegiate’s Sophie Vandenbrink.

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The Grade 9 student is a top-ranked squash player and she used some of those skills to capture the girls singles championship at the AABHN badminton tournament.

Despite her past experience with a racquet sport, Vandenbrink surprised herself on Wednesday.

“It’s really cool because I didn’t think I would be able to (win) and that it would be possible,” she said.

Vandenbrink probably should have been more confident as she’s ranked 10th in Ontario and 12th in Canada for squash. She attends PJC and is a member of the SOAR program.

“I’d love to play at nationals again and do that as an adult,” she said of her squash goals. “I was at nationals in October and I was 14th.”

Vandenbrink, who hasn’t come up with a goal for CWOSSA, said her plan at the AABHN was simple.

“I had no expectation,” she said. “I wanted to have fun, see what I could do and push the boundaries.”

North Park won the team championship with 39 points. NPC was followed by BCI (20), PJC (20), PDHS (19) and SJC (12).

The following are the players who placed second and third (in order of finish) at the AABHN championships. First- and second-place finishers now advance to the Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association championships on April 20 at BCI.

Alex Hallet, NPC and Quinton Luscombe, PJC, boys singles; Simran Gursimran, SJC and Amera Iqbal, PJC, girls singles; Ashton Stefan and Derek Colling, NPC and Gavin Bernard and Trudeau Gulats, PDHS, boys doubles; Harper North and Bianka Krushat, (PDHS) and Eva Petittiparler and Leanne Moore, SJC, girls doubles; and Isaac Halsey and Lauren Cohoon, PDHS and Bhumi Shan and Alex Colton, NPC mixed doubles.

The AABHN senior championships take place on Thursday at BCI.

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