In the spirit of the Olympics, which atonight? Wednesday morning? The time change to countries in Asia always takes a few days for me to figure out), I thought I’d give you an update on a couple of athletes who are competing on the national and international level – just not at the Olympic level, which has the opening ceremonies Friday night.
Menlo Park’s Calem Filipek, a 15-year-old rising sophomore at Bellarmine who unleashed a 400-yard drive in a Northern California League Amateur Long Drive event last month, qualified for the ALD national championship after winning the junior men’s bracket with a drive of 350 yards at the Northern California League championships Saturday at The Ranch Golf Range in Davis.
Having already won a men’s open division contest, Filipek was just looking to get one drive to stop in the grid while competing in the junior division.
“It wasn’t that nerve-wracking,” Filipek said. “It was just show up and get through it and go to the [national championships].”
The only other competitor in the junior division, 13-year-old Stuart Mason, finished with a drive of 285 yards.
“The kid saw the (Daily Journal) article (about Calem) and he came,” said Eric Filipek, Calem’s father. “He was nervous.”
The win qualifies Calem Filipek for the ALD national championships at Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Aug. 13-14.
This is the third long drive event in which Filipek has competed and he has won all three times. Unlike many of his competitors, who use clubs specific to long drive competitions, Filipek is still using an off-the-rack driver – TaylorMade Sim 2 with an extra-stiff graphite shaft.
“Still that driver. Just keep running with that one,” Filipek said.
He has also continues to play a lot of golf. Not necessarily long-drive training, but considering he’s spending a lot of time playing and practicing at altitude in the Lake Tahoe region, it’s easy to get over-confident in the thinner air.
“It does help my ego hitting it 350 and 400 (yards in the thin mountain air),” Filipek said. “If there is wind and I’m shooting a little downhill, I can get it there (out to 400 yards).”
While Filipek hasn’t taken a deep dive into the national contest, he does know that the winning drive the last national championship was in the 350-yard range – but there is a big difference playing in the humidity of South Carolina and the hard-pan, hot, wind-swept plains of Davis.
“There is not as much roll in a tropical climate,” Filipek said. “[Last year’s winner] was probably hitting it 330 on the carry.”
While Filipek gears up for a cross-country trip, Frankie Corbett has been hunkered down in Acapulco, Mexico for the last week while participating in the junior Pan American games.
A rising junior at Hillsdale, Corbett is one of the topped ranked badminton players in the country and she is slowly moving up the world rankings as well.
She and longtime doubles partner Allison Lee were selected as the women’s doubles entrant for the team event. Paired together, they went 3-0. Corbett teamed with Bhaavya Manikonda to go a perfect 4-0 in the tournament, without dropping a set, to help lead Team USA to the team gold medal.
The work isn’t over for Corbett. This week she will compete in the U19 women’s singles and doubles individual tournaments, as well as the U17 mixed doubles competition.
She’s hoping all of this competition will help her rise in the rankings, with the ultimate goal of vying for a future Olympic spot. She said in the United States she is ranked top-5 in singles and No. 1 in doubles. She and Lee have done enough at the international level to have a world ranking of No. 150.
“We got a big jump because of our placement at the adult Pan Am games,” said Corbett, referencing the silver medal she and Lee won in the doubles tournament in May. “For this age, I think [our ranking] is pretty good. We just have to get out there and play more adult international tournaments.”
Corbett is also hoping her club’s investment in higher-caliber coaches will help grow not only her game but the sport in general. She said top American players usually have had to go overseas to get elite coaching. She is starting to see those type of coaches coming to the states more and more.
“The coaching level of badminton was not as high as it is right now,” Corbett said. “My club, Synergy, brought over a Japanese coach and she’s really boosted the training to make it more professional.
“Synergy is trying to bring in coaches from different top countries. Normally, players would have to go to those countries (for training). Now, we try to bring those coaches over here so we don’t have to go there.”
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117.