By Darren Lum
Published May 3 2016
When it comes to badminton at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School there is a tradition of excellence.
This trend continued this year after the senior Red Hawks returned from the Central Ontario Secondary School Athletics (COSSA) championship at East Northumberland Secondary School in Brighton on Tuesday April 26 not only with two all-provincial (Ontario Federation School Athletic Associations championship) berths but also the team COSSA title which hasn’t happened since 2013.
Leading the way the boys’ doubles team of Grade 10 Ben Schmidt and Grade 12 Jaydon Wood finished in first place winning all of their games at COSSA to earn their first all-provincial badminton trip.
Although they went undefeated in three matches the Hawks were pushed in their final match 24-22 and 21-19. They said the ability to win the tight matches this season came down to playing time whether it was in drills or practices with alumni and club play.
The strong finish is in stark contrast to the slow start they had. It was a struggle to advance past the first Kawartha qualifier they said as the team was still adjusting to each other.
Ben entered the season without expectations but is very happy about joining the province’s best players in his first year of senior badminton.
With three older brothers who have all been to OFSAA he felt pressure and expectations to continue the family tradition. His all-provincial berth has alleviated that.
Eldest brother Jesse Schmidt advanced to OFSAA as a doubles player while next eldest Darcy earned two berths as a singles player. Caleb Schmidt who advanced this year as a singles player earned a berth with doubles player Curtis Ballantyne last year where they earned a C flight bronze.
Ben’s doubles partner Wood the four-year veteran in doubles badminton is familiar with OFSAA and the associated pressures.
“I know what you’re supposed to do there and how you’re supposed to act but probably different than the hockey sense because you have the whole team and there’s just two of us and Caleb” he said referring to his other all-provincials berth with the Red Hawks boys’ hockey team two years ago.
As a player who loves to smash from the back court his game complemented Ben’s strength at the net. He appreciates having the support of his teammates when they go to North Bay from May 5 to 7.
Caleb a Grade 12 student finished second in singles at COSSA this year and advanced to OFSAA with a 3-1 record because the top two places advanced to the all-provincials.
He doesn’t diminish his achievement in earning an all-provincials berth with his doubles partner Ballantyne last year but welcomes the opportunity to live out a dream to play singles in his second and last opportunity to play at the highest level for high school sports.
“It’s what I always wanted to play. I’m more excited about this one than the last one you can say. I was still really excited to go last year. I was Grade 11 and went to OFSAA but this year I get to play in singles so I’m happy about that” he said. “I like to know if I make a mistake it’s all my fault and all on me. I have to play better. I don’t have to rely on somebody.”
With some of the top players in the province possibly the country vying for medals in the A flight the Hawks players are realistic about their chances and will be aiming for gold in the C flight or a top finish in the B flight.
As happy as he is for himself he is proud of his brother Ben who he considers to be a more skilled player than him and his brothers when they were in Grade 10.
“It’s good for him that he is in Grade 10. Hopefully he’ll have two more years to go to OFSAA. It will be the most out of [us] if he does make it to go the next two” he said.
He adds his brother is determined and is dedicated to putting in the work to improve on and off the court.
Caleb said the winning legacy in the family is owed to his dad and the team’s coach Bob.
“It’s probably because of him that we [have the] skills because he trains with us a lot and helps us get better … it started with Jesse and then Darcy lot more … I trained with him but not as much as Darcy” he said.
Rounding out the results for the team and factoring heavily in winning the team team title was the fifth place finish by the first-year senior girls’ doubles team of Jamie Little and Kenndal Marsden.
The coach was impressed by the grit and determination of Little who rolled her ankle in the second match and was left hobbled for the rest of the tournament.
“They didn’t just quit and roll over. She still went out” he said
Marsden showed a great attitude he said doing her best to compensate for the immobile partner that stayed at the net after the injury.
Despite the handicap the doubles’ team were resolute in finishing the tournament unaware of the team title ramifications.
“I didn’t know it would factor into the COSSA team title but I don’t like to give up. Kenndal and I worked hard to get to COSSA so it was important to still keep trying to win and do our best” she said.
Without their strong and respectable finish the team title wasn’t possible.
“Them being there put us in first” Bob said.