PREP ROUNDUP: Badminton finals, Western League track

Mylene Keophaseut listed the simplest reason for longing to excel at badminton.

“I wanted to make my dad proud,” said the Mira Mesa High senior.

Rest assured, Aenoi Keophaseut was wearing a 100-watt smile late Saturday afternoon. Mylene won the San Diego Section girls singles title at Canyon Hills High, then after a 30-minute break defended her coed title with Nathan Chao.

“She’s crazy good,” said Chao. “It’s indescribable. She’s able to hold her own even if a guy’s on the other side of the net. She’s just as good. “

Keophaseut, seeded No. 1 in singles and mixed doubles, dropped just one singles set in four matches. In the finals, she defeated Kearny’s Niah Watson 21-13, 21-17.

Madison’s top-seeded Ricardo Ramirez earned the boys title, defeating upset-minded, seventh-seed Edward Yang of Torrey Pines 21-15, 21-15.

In high school badminton, there are singles championships, boys and girls doubles, plus mixed doubles. Players may only enter two events. Keophaseut focused on doubles last year, winning the mixed with Chao and girls doubles with his sister, Rachel.

“I feel like the past four years I’ve really been avoiding singles,” said Keophaseut.

One reason was because Rachel Chao dominated singles, taking home two section titles. With Rachel graduated, Mylene stepped up to play solo.

“Since it’s my senior year,” she said, “I wanted to throw myself in there.”

Mira Mesa coach Alvin Mendoza said there are two main factors for Mylene’s success.

“She just lives at the gym, literally,” said Mendoza.

Keophaseut holds down a job, working at SMASH! Badminton San Diego.

“And she just has a carefree attitude,” said Mendoza. “When you play loose there’s not as much mental pressure on yourself. And it’s not that she doesn’t want to win. She wants to win every point but her approach when it comes to playing is different than her opponent. “

Indicative of her laid-back manner, Keophaseut brought two stuffed animals to the tournament, a frog named Kero and an unnamed sloth.

“Do you want to name him?” she asked a reporter.

The stuffed animals are a tournament ritual, although she usually hands them off to somebody else.

“I’m all sweaty,” she said.

Sweat played a factor in Ramirez’s road to the boys singles title. A year ago Ramirez lost to Yang in the Eastern League tournament. On Saturday, he rolled through four matches without dropping a set.

“I think (the improvement) is because he worked so hard,” said Madison coach Chung Kim.

At a lean 6-feet-1, Ramirez is athletic, capable of twisting his body on the run, along with a deft touch at the net. He attributes his athleticism to playing soccer, starting for the Warhawks at center-midfield the past two years.

The boys doubles final was an all-Patrick Henry affair with Anthony-Hao Nguyen and Francis Hoang defeating Tim Tran and AJ Teer 21-12, 30-29.

In the girls doubles, Kearny’s Watson and Christine Kim dealt with San Diego’s Gabriela Naranjo and Nico Maruyama a 21-13, 21-18 defeat.

In the mixed doubles championship, Keophaseut and Chau beat Henry’s Hoang and Jennifer Diep 21-18, 21-13.

The badminton team championships will be held next Saturday at Kearny High.

McCormick speedy again

Another big track meet, another record for Aaliyah McCormick.

The Scripps Ranch High senior lowered her section 100-meter hurdle record to a wind-legal 13.61 seconds at the Western League championships Friday night at University City High. It’s the third time this season the state leader has trimmed her own standard of 13.85 after running 13.82 at Arcadia and then 13.77 at Mt. SAC.

She also captured the 100-meter dash in a wind-aided 11.74 seconds and collected a personal-best 43.31 in winning the 300-meter hurdles.

Teammate Lexi Evans moved back into the state lead in the girls pole vault, clearing a personal-best 13 feet, 10 inches to jump over El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge’s Alison Sahaida (13-9).

Norcross and Brand are freelance writers.

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