Local ‘birders’ impressive at home tourney

Lucas Punkari

Members of the Fort Frances Badminton Club left everything they had out on the floor at the Fort High gym over the weekend during their annual invitational tournament.
“Everyone was playing to their best or above their limit, and we had many players coming off of the court that were absolutely sweaty and saying that they were so sore, which is something that I like to see,” said club head coach Manami Alexander.
One of the top local players was 13-year-old Taylor Whitehead, who competed against players much older than him in the men’s ‘A’ division.
“He was able to beat the number two-ranked player [Sebastian Fuzzen of Thunder Bay] on his way to a third-place finish, and that was a nice surprise to see,” Alexander enthused.
“I put him in the ‘A’ event so he could use the experience to prepare for his junior nationals in May [in Moncton, N.B.], and his performance and his improvements in his game impressed many people in the tournament,” she added.
Samara Payne (U13 girls’ singles), Connor Bujold (U16 boys’ singles), and Anika Alexander (U16/U19 girls’ singles) were the top players in their respective categories, with Bujold also finishing first in the U13/U16 boys’ doubles division with Daniel Liew of Winnipeg.
Alexander, meanwhile, teamed up with Angel McCormack of Fort Frances to place first in the U13/U16/U19 girls’/women’s doubles event while Sarah Bagacki joined Winnipeg’s Jesse Heibert to capture the U13/U16 mixed doubles division.
Bryson Skirten rounded out the local winners as he and partner Kristin Moen (Rainy River) took top spot in the U19 mixed doubles.
“In addition to those players, my first-time junior tournament players looked very enthusiastic to play hard and improved a lot during the weekend,” Manami Alexander noted.
Besides the strong showings from local players, Alexander also was pleased by the response from those who came from out-of-town to compete.
“Having 75 entries taking part in 200 matches turned out to be just the right amount to get through the weekend without getting behind schedule,” she remarked.
“Our goals are to give players a lot of games to play at all levels, and to enjoy the entire weekend, and I think we accomplished our mission.”
Local players next will have two events on the same weekend to choose from following Easter.
A Kenora singles tournament is planned for Saturday, April 14 while the Manitoba provincial championships taking place in Winnipeg from April 13-15.