Community, Schools

UMEI Lightning Badminton Makes A Strong Return

The UMEI Lightning Badminton Team – KJ Riha, Elyse Couto, Mason Fittler, Liam Brown, Nathan Friesen, Vivienne Fittler, Coach John Fittler, Meghan Recker, Amirah Wieler, Nathan Ribble, Aidan Brown, Sharon Latam, Ben Recker, Coach Pete Driedger

UMEI Lightning Badminton is back!

After a 3-year hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, UMEI Christian High School was thrilled to compete in badminton again. This 12-person team proved that small can still be mighty through the many tournaments and competitions in which they competed.

Mason Fittler winning County WECSSAA Gold with coaches Pete Driedger and John Fittler

Mason Fittler, Grade 12, had an incredible season, winning both the Chatham-Kent Secondary School Senior Invitational and the Pain Court (ESPC) Senior Invitational tournaments, while placing second at the Ursuline College tournament.

Fittler then competed at the WECSSAA county championship on April 18, and remained undefeated to become the county champion for senior men’s singles. He went on to the joint city and county WECSSAA tournament on April 25, placing 3rd in men’s singles and qualifying for SWOSSAA.

Nathan Friesen, Elyse Couto and Amirah Wieler

Unfortunately, Fittler suffered a significant ankle injury, which ended his season as he made the tough decision to pull out of the SWOSSAA tournament. “I owe all my success to my coaches,” said Fittler.

“I am so grateful for all the time and effort they put into my development, taking me to tournaments sometimes until 10:00 pm. I’m grateful for all the friendships I could make at these tournaments, and the ability to grow so much over my high school years thanks to coaches who always wanted to see me succeed.”

Ben Recker and Sharon Latam who won bronze at WECSSAA

Ben Recker (Grade 11) and Sharon Latam (Grade 10) also made quite the mark playing senior mixed doubles.

After placing 3rd at the Chatham-Kent SS tournament, they went on to win bronze at both the county WECSSAA and overall WECSSAA championships, qualifying the team for SWOSSAA.

The pair fought hard but were eliminated at SWOSSAA on May 2.

“We are proud of our efforts, as Grade 10 and 11 students, especially since most of the athletes in our division are in Grade 12,” said Recker.

“We are ready to be even better in 2024 and are thankful to the coaches for their dedication and time.”

Liam Brown and Vivienne Fittler discuss strategy

Junior mixed doubles team Vivienne Fittler and Liam Brown, both Grade 9, also made their mark at WECSSAA, winning bronze at the county championship.

“This team shows so much promise, and we look forward to building their skills further in the coming years,” said Coach Pete Driedger.

A highlight for Lightning Athletics is the ability to also compete in the Ontario Christian Secondary School Athletic Association.

This tournament took place at Brock University and featured 23 Christian high schools from across Ontario.

Senior men’s doubles team Nathan Ribble and Aidan Brown, Grade 11, took first place in the B-flight championship game, as did Fittler in men’s singles and Recker/Latam in mixed doubles. The junior team of Fittler/Brown took fourth place in the A-flight — a very impressive finish.

Nathan Ribble and Aidan Brown compete at the OCSSAA Tournament

The efforts of the coaching staff, John Fittler and Pete Driedger, and the dedication of all the players are a true testament to how small schools can still be very competitive in sports.

“It’s not the size of the team, it’s the heart of the players,” said Coach Fittler. “I’m so proud of how these young people bounced back after three years off and played an incredible season. We can’t wait for 2024.”

To learn more about Lightning Athletics, visit

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