Dawson Creek Secondary’s badminton team is going to provincials, but Coach Devon Aaroe will be the first to tell you: they got in through a side door.
For the first time since the school’s badminton program was reborn in 2013, students from Dawson Creek are headed to Vancouver to square off against some of the best young players in Canada.
After a series of teams in Dawson Creek’s zone dropped out—including Prince George’s Kelly Road Secondary, which finished first—the Penguins were given the option to play in the tournament June 2-4.
“Generally, our A-level teams like Kelly Road get stuffed. They get last,” Aaroe said of the level of competition.
“We’re expecting to not do well in the standings, but the reason I’m taking them there is for the experience. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to play against some of the top players in the world.”
The tournament will be a milestone for the young program.
Since the 1970s, Dawson Creek has had a recreational adult badminton league, which plays at the Central Middle School Gym. Aaroe began playing in Grade 8, appearing at the B.C. Winter Games and medalling at the Northern BC Winter Games. In 2012, Aaroe and his now-fiancé and co-coach Kathleen Stevenson decided to start a school team.
“We saw there was a need for a junior team,” he said. “It had tried to be started a couple times but nothing really picked up.”
“That team consisted of two people,” he said with a laugh.
Over time, the sport grew. In 2014, nine players regularly attended practice. By last year, 20 or so were on the team, placing third in their pool. This year, they had to transfer to the larger South Peace campus gym to accommodate the number of players.
Then this year, a stroke of luck. Dawson Creek finished first in the “B” pool, the lower tier of the ten-team northern zone.
One after another, teams in the “A” pool dropped out—including Kelly Road, North Peace Secondary and other senior-heavy teams whose players would be attending graduation ceremonies.
“It got passed down the line until it got to us,” said Aaroe. “We’re next in line, so we’re going.”
The team headed to Richmond includes Chantal Dunne, “one of our original two.”
“She’s graduating this year, so it’s a bit of a Cinderella story for her,” said Aaroe.
Also headed south is senior Kalen Dorer.
“Going to zones and provincials, you come out of it as really good friends,” she said during practice last week.
“We’re all cheering each other one during games and stuff. I think we really grow well as a team.”
The team raised money for flights through a bottle drive May 24.