The Westgate School from Winchester and The Reading School from Royal Berkshire produced pure magic on court today, turning previously won KS3 titles into KS4 crowns at the National Schools Championships finals in Milton Keynes.
And both did so by ending the title defence of returning champions in the crucial group stages.
For Westgate School, the girls team were back to title winning ways, claiming the Years 10-11 girls title to follow up their KS3 success two years ago in 2015. And top step on the podium carried extra significance after finishing second 12 months ago.
This time around, the girls made light work of their opening group stage before seeing off the challenge of Truro School (4-1) and 2016 champions Hymers College (5-0).
Westgate would not be drawn that revenge was in the air when they faced returning champions Hymers College from Hull but the 5-0 result, avenging the gold medal match loss last season, proved decisive in Hymers third place finish with Truro School taking a much deserved silver.
For Under 17 national champion Annie Lado, winning the national schools title to go alongside her individual crowns, was full of joy.
“It is fantastic to win this,” Lado said. “The school have been so supportive of my badminton so I am really happy to represent the school and to win something playing with my friends is great.”
Whilst the destination of the girls title was clear cut, the boys competition went to the wire.
And it was to prove an unlikely story with The Reading School, last year’s KS3 champions, adding the KS4 crown to the trophy cabinet after a hard fought scrap to be champions with returning title holders Tapton School.
Bolstered by a three of last season’s KS3 title winning squad stepping up into the older age group, The Reading School were on the right side of a 3-2 scoreline in three of their four group stage matches but a nip-tuck win over Tapton led to celebrations.
Tapton School finished second whilst Clayton Hall, the competition’s impressive surprise package, ended with bronze.
For Reading School’s head coach Steve Pedlow the hard work for the weekend is not over. He will now look to mastermind a successful title defence of the KS3 title on Sunday’s final – and he is hopeful of being the first school to ‘do the double’ in the new era of Badminton England’s national schools tournament.
Pedlow said “I didn’t expect the boys to win that today so I am really happy. We always have a chance when you get to the national final but Tapton are a strong school and we got the right results at the right time. The pairings enjoy playing together so we switched things around a bit and it worked.”
Tomorrow (KS3) will be just as tough but the chance to be the first school to win both KS3 and KS4 titles in the same weekend is good motivation.”
With entry from over 8,000 school teams featuring more than 42,000 pupils, the National School Championships remain one of the largest competitions of its kind in Europe.
Finals Day sees the top 36 school teams compete for national titles and is played out in front at the National Badminton Centre – home of the England squad.
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