Bujold, Arpin net berths at OFSAA

Joey Payeur

There will be a distinct Rainy River District flavour at the OFSAA badminton championships May 4-6 in Pain Court.
Grade 11 Muskie ace Aaron Bujold, after failed attempts the previous two years, finally got the better of two-time defending champion and close friend Yaman Malhi of the Churchill Bulldogs (Thunder Bay) 24-22, 21-19 en route to a 5-0 record and the senior boys’ singles gold medal at the NWOSSAA finals last Wednesday in Wawa.
Bujold improved his match record to 19-0 and still has yet to drop a single set in high school play this season.
“It was a close game and I knew it was going to be close, but I’m glad I beat him . . . I got a little bit of revenge,” grinned Bujold, who has won three-straight NorWOSSA titles in senior boys’ singles despite being a junior-aged player the past two years.
“You have to prepare yourself for that one and then turn it up a notch when it comes time to play,” he reasoned.
Muskie coach Brian Church was thrilled that Bujold finally made that next step up the NWOSSAA ladder.
“Aaron had a great day,” he lauded. “In the previous two years, he had come up short.
“Aaron was pumped and looking forward to his match with Malhi,” Church added. “By far, it was the most entertaining match of the meet.
Aaron and Yaman were exchanging points and skilled shots in some very exciting rallies.
“Aaron’s game has improved in both power and accuracy since last year,” noted Church.
“I’m very proud of his performance at NWOSSAA and have big hopes for him at OFSAA next week.”
Bujold began the day by beating Jackson Arpin of the Rainy River Owls 21-8, 21-16, then downing Keegan Trembley of the La Verendrye Vipers (Thunder Bay) 21-8, 21-2 and Alex Trembley of the Ecole secondaire de la catholique Trillium Coyotes (Chapleau) 21-1, 21-9.
Then after holding off Malhi, Bujold clinched the gold with a 21-3, 21-9 rout over Quinn Tammi of the Marathon Falcons.
The Muskie veteran is confident this could be his year to make a successful run at an OFSAA medal.
“Last year, I played double the amount of games I did the first year,” Bujold said.
“I lost my last game last year or I would have been guaranteed a medal,” he noted.
“That loss pushed me to train a little harder for this year.
“I think being there before will be good because it’s important to have that experience,” he added.
Malhi went 4-1 to take silver while Arpin earned the bronze after going 3-2 with wins over the two Trembleys and Tammi, with an additional loss to Malhi (21-19, 17-21, and 21-14) that included the latter’s first set loss all season.
But in a twist of fate, Malhi pulled himself out of OFSAA due to a previously-scheduled obligation.
That opened the door to Arpin to take the second available berth for the all-Ontarios.
“I found out when I was standing in the Wal-Mart parking lot,” chuckled the Grade 10 competitor, who got the good news via a phone call from his sister.
“I was pretty excited,” he added. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be able to learn a lot and watch the more experienced players.
“I think I played to the best of my abilities and peaked at the right moment this year, and played my best badminton of the year at NWOSSAA.”
Owls’ coach Guy Arpin, who will send his son to OFSAA with Bujold and his father, Louis, due to work commitments, was in high spirits over his son’s achievements.
“The division was quite tough with two returning OFSAA participants in the field,” the elder Arpin noted.
“As a Grade 10 student, Jackson’s goal was to finish in the top three and to use this year as a prep for his Grade 11 and 12 years.”
Meanwhile, the Muskie junior girls’ doubles team of Lauryn Marchant and Tayah Badiuk came close to joining Bujold and Arpin at OFSAA, losing their last match of the day to Felicity Oliveira and Kaitlyn Morin (Manitouwadge Wolverines) 21-15, 21-14 to end up with the bronze medal at 3-2.
“It turned out to be their toughest match of the day,” said Church.
Marchant and Badiuk outlasted NorWOSSA gold-medalists Tia-Ray Alexiuk and Charlotte Arnold (Atikokan Voyageurs) 21-19, 17-21, and 21-15 before losing another three-set affair to eventual champions Mya Prusky and Kendra Schuurman (21-13, 20-22, and 21-18).
Then they downed Jemima Dejong and Michelle Cao (Churchill) 21-12, 21-17, along with a duo from the St. Ignatius Falcons (Thunder Bay) 21-10, 21-19, to put themselves into position to make the top two before falling to Oliveira and Morin.
Owls’ senior girls’ singles entrant Bethany Sinninghe, as well as Muskie junior girls’ singles player Michaela Putzer, both also finished with 3-2 records to claim bronze medals and narrowly miss a shot at OFSAA.
It was Sinninghe’s best performance in three career trips to NWOSSAA.
“The division was very close as all the competitors seemed fairly evenly-matched,” noted Guy Arpin.
“In her last year of high school competition, Bethany did very well and her losses came at the hands of the two athletes from NSSSAA, one of which who participated at OFSAA last year.”
Putzer started with a 21-9, 21-7 victory over teammate Bella Ward and a 21-4, 21-3 rout of La Verendrye’s Jessie Scott to run her season record to 17-0 and, like Bujold, having not dropped a set to that point.
Stacy Lefebvre of Trillium changed all that, rallying from one set down to upend Putzer 17-21, 21-17, and 21-17.
“This loss seemed to throw her game off a bit and she started missing some shots by having them land just out of bounds,” said Church.
Eventual gold-medalist Talus Laing of the host Michipicoten Vikings (Wawa) then extinguished Putzer’s OFSAA dreams by handing her a second-straight defeat 21-18, 21-14.
But showing her Muskie pride despite being out of the mix, Putzer regrouped to smash La Verendrye’s Avery Duguay 21-8, 21-9 to pocket the bronze.
“This field of young ladies was well-matched and the results could have easily gone the other way for many of the players,” said Church.
Ward brushed off her opening loss to Putzer to shock Laing 16-21, 21-19, and 21-17 for what would be the Vikings’ only setback of the tournament.
“She seemed to pick up her game when in tight matches against strong opponents whom she hadn’t played before,” lauded Church.
Ward made it two wins in a row by beating Scott 21-12, 21-14.
But Duguay (23-21, 21-15) and Lefebvre (21-10, 21-12) proved to be too much for Ward to handle as she finished in fifth place at 2-3.
“I am proud of the whole team and what they accomplished this season,” enthused Church.
“All four girls are in Grade 9 and show great promise for the team in upcoming years.
“All of these players have been active in the badminton club in town for a number of years, and have developed skills that others can’t achieve in such a short season,” he added.
“Their success is a result of many hours of practice outside of the short school badminton season.”