By Larry Moko
Cathedral’s Jay Stokl experienced a coach’s dream on Day 1 of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic junior high school badminton championships.
In the mixed doubles and boys’ doubles finals, both pairs competing in the gold-medal match represented the host Cathedral Gaels.
Kind of a can’t-lose situation for Stokl when, during breaks between sets, he talked separately to each of those duos.
“I wanted to be as positive as I could and as neutral as I could,” Stokl said of his advice.
“You’re trying to kind of take the third person point of view and let them settle it on the court. You want both to be aggressive and win. It’s a great problem to have.”
The two-day tournament concludes Friday with the boys’ singles and girls’ doubles categories.
A large field of 207 players entered this year’s event.
The boys’ doubles category saw Maurice Mangino and Kyle Ellurig take top honours with a final-match victory over Easton Bourgeois and Kaziel Tamayo.
In mixed doubles, gold medals went to Aaron Daly and Nosen Ajayi. They topped Danny Do and Vanessa Merlos Gonzalez.
“It feels good,” said Daly, who repeated as champion in mixed pairs. “I did it with a different partner last year.”
Ajayi, who placed third in girls’ doubles last season, said the coaches at Cathedral are the reason for the team’s success (the Gaels won the junior team title in 2022).
In boys’ doubles, Ellurig and Mangino are Grade 10 students. “We knew we were a strong pair,” Ellurig said. “So we were glad to have played our best.”
As for Mangino, his family has a background in the sport. “My mother and dad played badminton and they were high school champions back in the Philippines, my homeland,” Mangino said.
The only non-Cathedral champion was Zyannah Romaguerra of the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves. She defeated Meia Garzon of the St. Thomas More Knights in the girls’ single final.
“I feel very happy because I’m the only SJB player that won,” said Romaguerra, a Grade 9 student who didn’t lose a set in any of her five matches.
“I was able to win because I had confidence in myself. I wasn’t stressed out. The one I played in the final was my friend.”
Third-place finishes went to: Nicole Mariano and Daniel Guagliano, St. John Henry Newman, (mixed doubles); Justin Pham and Sebastian Hernandez, Cathedral, (boys’ doubles); Mekeelah Dillon, Cathedral (girls’ singles).