Chloe and Arran are treble winners as junior badminton championships return
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There were some epic games, hard-fought rallies and close encounters as the Caithness junior badminton championships returned after a break of more than two years.
Chloe Mackenzie completed the treble at both under-15 and under-17 level, while Arran Johnson was a treble winner in the under-15s.
With players having had very limited access to indoor facilities for so long, and often no access at all, the organisers were very impressed with the standard. There was a feeling at times, though, that the extended break did have a detrimental effect on the development of many of the players.
The championships were held over the course of a week in Wick and Thurso, starting with U11s and going up to U17s.
For many this was their first taste of competition and, while some were still getting used to the rules, it did not detract from the skill and determination on show.
The U11s played half-court singles, to allow players to use this experience as a learning curve. Many players are new to the game but they coped well in a competitive situation.
Girls’ winner Sophie Mackay showed grit and determination to beat her Dunnet club-mate Lexie Mackenzie in a three-set final. Ollie MacDonald managed to beat his Wick club-mate Andrew Baijal in two sets.
The U13s also played half-court singles, and their competition included level and mixed doubles. Play was again fast and furious with many of the under-11s showing their resolve in the older age group.
Boys' singles winner Matthew Cook and girls' singles winner Ashlyn Gunn had the edge over their opponents through thoughtful as well as instinctive play.
The U15s had the biggest entry and their experience on the court paid dividends with Chloe Mackenzie taking the girls' singles with ease from Chloe Begg. Arran Johnson had a tougher match against under-13 winner Matthew Cook before Arran’s firepower proved decisive.
The U17 girls' singles title went to Chloe Mackenzie. Her experience competing south stood her in good stead, although Kirsty Henderson fought all the way with excellent rallies pushing Chloe into the back of the court and opening a space at the front.
The U17 boys' singles was a family affair between Taylor and Lewis Swan, with Lewis pipping Taylor to the title.
Chloe and Kirsty teamed up to take the girls' doubles, while Taylor and Lewis took the boys' doubles.
The mixed was won by Chloe and Taylor in a fantastic three-set final match against Kirsty and Lewis.
It was a busy week for the organisers, preparing the draws, running the events and keeping the competitions running smoothly. They thanked all the volunteers who came along to help with officiating and keeping the kids motivated with coaching points and words of encouragement.
Jane Grant, regional development officer for the Highlands and Islands at Badminton Scotland, said: "A massive thanks to Kerry Mackenzie and Marion McCoustra who worked tirelessly both behind the scenes and running the events on the nights, and in such a short turnaround. Their dedication and commitment allowed all these players to showcase their talent.
"To see all these children, play, compete and have fun is something that we have been missing for so many months. Thanks to all the local junior club coaches and volunteers across Caithness who have managed to get junior badminton up and running again to enable the championships to take place.
"We have a bit of catching up to do but we are heartened with the numbers and quality of the juniors attending the clubs."
U11 girls – Main draw: 1 Sophie Mackay, Dunnet; 2 Lexie Mackenzie, Dunnet; 3 Myah Macleod, Dunnet. Consolation winner: Olivia Sandecka, Wick.
U11 boys: 1 Ollie MacDonald, Wick; 2 Andrew Baijal, Wick; 3 Alistair Mackay, Thurso.
U13 girls' singles: 1 Ashlyn Gunn, Wick; 2, Sophie Mackay, Dunnet; consolation winner Kate Durrand, Wick.
U13 boys' singles: 1 Matthew Cook, Thurso; 2 Angus Mackay, Wick; consolation winner Liam Gunn, Wick.
U13 girls' doubles: 1 Rhea Bruce and Freya Mackay, Wick; 2 Kate Durrand and Ashlyn Gunn, Wick; consolation winners Sophie Mackay and Lexie Mackenzie, Dunnet.
U13 boys' doubles: 1 Matthew Cook, Thurso, and Liam Gunn, Wick; 2 Angus Mackay and Rory Nicolson, Wick; consolation winners Finlay MacDonald and Dhaill Mackay, Dunnet.
U13 mixed doubles: 1 Ashlyn Gunn and Rory Nicolson, Wick; 2 Lexie Mackenzie and Dhaill Mackay, Dunnet; consolation winners Myah Macleod, Dunnet, and Matthew Cook, Thurso.
U15 girls' singles: 1 Chloe Mackenzie, Dunnet/Thurso; 2 Chloe Begg, Wick; consolation winner Ava Cook, Thurso.
U15 boys' singles: 1 Arran Johnson, Thurso; 2 Matthew Cook, Thurso; consolation winner Charles Fryett, Thurso.
U15 girls' doubles: 1 Chloe Begg, Wick, and Chloe Mackenzie, Dunnet/Thurso; 2 Antonia Beattie and Anna Durrand, Wick; consolation winners Leah Bain and Hallie Bremner, Wick.
U15 boys' doubles: 1 Arran Johnson and Gregor Mill, Thurso; 2 Qida Du and Alexander Mackay, Wick; consolation winners Matthew Cook and Dhaill Mackay, Dunnet.
U15 mixed doubles – 1 Chloe Mackenzie and Arran Johnson; 2 Ava Cook and Gregor Mill, Thurso; consolation winners Matthew Cook, Thurso, and Antonia Beattie, Wick.
U17 girls' singles – 1 Chloe Mackenzie, Dunnet/Thurso; 2 Kirsty Henderson, Thurso; consolation winner Chloe Begg, Wick.
U17 boys' singles: 1 Lewis Swan, Thurso; 2 Taylor Swan, Thurso.
U17 girls' doubles: 1 Kirsty Henderson, Thurso, and Chloe Mackenzie, Dunnet/Thurso; 2 Antonia Beattie and Anna Durrand, Wick.
U17 boys' doubles: 1 Lewis and Taylor Swan, Thurso; 2 Matthew Cook and Arran Johnson, Thurso.
U17 mixed doubles: 1 Chloe Mackenzie, Dunnet/Thurso, and Taylor Swan, Thurso; 2 Kirsty Henderson and Lewis Swan, Thurso.