SHE'S the top women's player in the country, but Jennifer Saunders wasn't Manitoba's only bright spot at the Canadian National Racquetball Championships in Brossard, Que., last week.
Despite being the first player to capture all three titles -- the women's open singles, the women's doubles (with Quebec's Josée Grand'Maitre) and the mixed doubles (with Brandon's Wade Shadlock) -- Saunders was equally pleased to see a high number of Manitobans participate in the event.
Twenty-three athletes represented the province, trailing only the host Quebec team.
"Racquetball Manitoba funds all athletes of different ages and skill levels to attend events like this," said Saunders, the executive director of the organization. "It's good to have members participating at that level, especially for the younger players.
"That experience (at nationals) is important in development."
The funding, which basically amounts to the cost of airfare, is awarded on regular participation at the league level and tournaments inside Manitoba. The more someone plays, Saunders says, the stronger their case is for financial assistance to travel for out-of-province events like the nationals.
Saunders, who won her fourth straight women's singles crown (her sixth overall) and eighth women's doubles crown in the last decade, and Shadlock weren't the only Manitobans who found wins in Quebec.
Neil Dempsey (Winnipeg) won the men's 60-plus division, while Len Gerelus and Roger Havrilenko (Winnipeg) won the men's C doubles event.
Twenty-year-old Kurtis Cullen of Brandon, a rising star for Manitoba on the men's side, finished second in the mixed doubles (with Brittany Nelson of Windsor, Ont.), sixth in men's doubles (with Lethbridge's Coby Iwaasa) and 12th in the men's open event.
Rural athletes take a bow
HANNAH KOSTIUK of the Springfield Sabres track team and B.J. Avery of the Pilot Mound Pilots baseball team are the Manitoba High School Athletic Association athletes of the week.
Kostiuk captured first place in the junior varsity girls 3,000 metres with a time of 12:08.14 and grabbed second in the 1500-metre (5:30.42) at the Kilcona Pegius Athletic Conference Championships. Kostiuk qualified for the Milk Provincial Track and Field Championships in Selkirk June 7-9.
Thanks to his work in the Zone 6 championship event, Avery guided the Pilots to a spot in the provincial tournament in Stonewall. The 6-foot-1 pitcher earned wins in both the semifinal and final games in the zones.
The Grade 12 student has also qualified for the provincial track and field meet in the multi-event and 4 x 400-metre relay.