A small contingent of Merritt badminton players from Bench Elementary School put on quite a show at the Kelowna Badminton Club’s Junior Invitational tournament on the March 2 weekend.

Led by 12-year-old Gillian Moore, the eight-member team picked up no fewer than 20 top-three finishes in singles and doubles play.

Moore won the U12 girls’ singles title, then teamed up with classmate Jenna Kane to take the U12 girls’ doubles crown. She also placed third overall in U12 mixed doubles play with partner (and peewee rep hockey teammate) Connor Ouellet, and placed first in the B Plate [division] of the U14 girls’ singles event.

Ouellet was a first-place finisher overall in the U12 boys’ singles title. He also picked up a pair of seconds in U14 boys’ singles and doubles action.

Completing the list of top overall finishers from Merritt was Amrit Samra, who teamed up with Kelowna’s Billy Wang to take the U14 boys’ doubles title.

Bench badminton coach and Grade 6 teacher Vince Kanigan was elated with his young team’s performance at the three-day Kelowna Invitational.

“We had no idea what to expect,” he said. “It was our very first competition.”

The coach said that the Kelowna Badminton Club facility had a few surprises for his novice group, such as a hardwood floor and a ceiling so high that many of his players couldn’t hit it even if they tried.

“That was a big adjustment for our students,” Kanigan said. “They’re used to keeping their lobs way down because of the low ceiling in our gym.”

The Bench players also had to make a last-minute purchase of safety glasses on Friday night, and wear them in competition for the first time. They are a requirement for all junior-aged participants in Badminton BC sanctioned events.

Kanigan was full of praise for the Kelowna Badminton Club, and in particular Mike Mitson, the tournament director.

“Everyone was so accommodating and friendly. The Merritt kids and their parents had a great time.”

Moore, Ouellet, Jenna Kane, Sam McNiven, Keenan Wudrich, Andy Gush and Sara Yasunaga all joined Samra in partnering up with KBC players in one or more events over the weekend.

“Amrit and Billy [from Kelowna] have already arranged to team up next year,” Kanigan said.

The Bench Elementary badminton program is in its third year of existence. It runs from December through to spring break each year, and is open to students from Grades 1 to 7.

“We had almost 60 members this year,” Kanigan said. “We run sessions five mornings a week and three days after school. We operate on a sort of ‘farm dog’ philosophy with our older, more-experienced players working directly with new, younger members.”

In the future, Kani-gan would love to see badminton become a district-wide sport in the elementary schools, but for now he’s more than happy to grow the game and let the birds fly within the confines of his own school.

KELOWNA BADMINTON CLUB JUNIOR TOURNAMENT

Bench Elementary Results

Andy Gush

U14 Boys Singles 1st. “C Plate”

U14 Boys Doubles 2nd.

U14 Mixed Doubles 2nd.

Sam McNiven

U14 Boys Singles 1st. “B Plate”

U14 Boys Doubles 2nd.

U16 Boys Singles 1st. “B Plate”

Keenan Wudrich

U14 Boys Singles 2nd. “B Plate”

U14 Boys Doubles 3rd.

Amrit Samra

U14 Boys Singles 1st. “D Plate”

U14 Boys Doubles 1st.

U14 Mixed Doubles 3rd.

Connor Ouellet

U12 Boys Singles 1st.

U12 Mixed Doubles 1st.

U14 Boys Singles 2nd. “C Plate”

U14 Boys Doubles 2nd.

Gillian Moore

U12 Girls Singles 1st.

U12 Girls Doubles 1st.

U12 Mixed Doubles 3rd.

U14 Girls Singles 1st. “B Plate”

Jenna Kane

U12 Girls Singles 1st. “B Plate”

U12 Girls Doubles 1st.

U14 Girls Singles 3rd. “B Plate”

Sara Yasunaga

U14 Girls Singles 2nd. “B Plate”

U14 Mixed Doubles 3rd.