Nearly 60 secondary age pupils competed in the recent secondary schools badminton singles championships held in Banchory with 40 boys and 18 girls representing 14 schools from throughout the region.
The championships were played in 3 age groups, U14, U16 and U19 and would decide the North East representation at the forthcoming National Secondary Schools Championships to be held in Perth on 12 March.
The North East currently hold the U14 boys doubles title, won at last year’s event by brothers Sean and Mark Leith, Mackie Academy, and are hopeful of further success this year.
The biggest entry was in the U14 age group with 22 boys and 12 girls. After the group stages in the boys event Mark Leith and Matthew Duguid, both Mackie Academy progressed to the semi-final stage with Jamie Donnachie and Steaphan Connell, Cults and Jack Murray and Stuart Holley, Mackie Academy, playing off in the quarter finals.
In these matches Jack took the honours against Jamie, 21-9, while Steaphan overcame Stuart in a very close match, 21-19. This set up Mark and Jack in one semi with Steaphan challenging Matthew in the other. Mark and Matthew lived up to their seedings both winning their ties, going on to face each other in the final.
Despite a comfortable win in the first set, 21-11, Mark found the second set much more challenging. With many end to end rallies and tactical shots both boys should be complimented on their ability. Matthew took an early lead and continued to lead the set throughout reaching 20-18 in his favour. At this point Mark was fortunate to win a decisive point which remarkably landed over after hitting the net. This took the score to 20-19, Mark then levelled the score at 20 all before taking the lead for the first time to win the set and the title 21-20.
The U14 girls went straight to the semi-final after the group stage, Becky Flaherty (Banchory) against Kiera Dalton (Cults) in one and Holly Thomson against Chloe Tough, both Mackie Academy in the other. Both matches were hard fought with Becky and Chloe making it through to the final. Again the final was a nail biting encounter, Chloe winning the first set 21-13, Becky replied with the same score in the second, this time in her favour.
At one set all the deciding set promised to be full of tension. Once again both girls should be complimented on their performances proving why they justified their places in the final. Chloe played well but on this occasion Becky managed to hold on and take the title 21-14.
The U16 boys’ event attracted 15 entries and was split into 3 groups of 5. This meant the winner of each group would progress to the semi-final joined by the best placed runner up. Sean Leith and Cameron Pyper, Mackie Academy, and Duncan McKenzie (Kemnay) secured first place in their groups and Callum Roberts (Banchory) concluded the 4 places.
Sean progressed to the final with a comfortable win over Callum 21-9, 21-12, while Cameron had a more challenging match against Duncan. Despite losing the first 21-17, Cameron did not lose concentration and went on to win the tie 21-12 and 21-18.
This made for an all Mackie final, Sean versus Cameron. The standard of play continued to entertain and though Sean won the title in 2 sets, 21-16, 21-19, the close scores prove the match was very close. There was a lower entry in the older age groups as many of the players were in the midst of school exams. In the U16 girls event Kirsty Thomson, Mackie Academy, dominated dropping no more that 6 points in any game.
The U16 and U19 girls played in one pool with everyone playing each other. Kirsty comfortably lifted the U16 title and Eilidh Rankin the U19 title. With only 3 boys competing in the U19 section Scott Murray (Mackie Academy) was also a comfortable title winner with Leon Back and Daniel Ingram, both Banchory finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Throughout the age groups there were many close encounters and some very entertaining performances for the spectators to enjoy. Winners: U14 girls Becky Flaherty, U14 boys Mark Leith, U16 girls Kirsty Thomson, U16 boys Sean Leith, U19 girls Eilidh Rankin, U19 boys Scott Murray.