It was a smashing return of inter-collegiate games after more than two years of pandemic restriction. This year, the school spirit is alive and kicking as the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) held its first in-person competitions.

Among those who felt the excitement of finally being able to strut their stuff in the courts was the University of San Carlos (USC) Warriors Badminton Team. It seemed that the adrenaline rush was beneficial for them as they copped five gold medals in various categories, among the other podium finishes that they achieved this year.

“We’re just excited to be back. Back in July, when it was announced that the Cesafi will be held in-person again, USC immediately looked for a new coach and we started tryouts,” said civil engineering student Mitzi Montalvo, gold medalist in the Women’s Singles A category.

Training immediately went underway in August with their new coach Emilio Mangubat Jr.

“When the team finally met our coach, I knew we were in good hands,” revealed Mitzi.

With the majority of them disconnected from their badminton racquets during the lockdown, the six-days-a-week training was a welcome break for them to scrape off the on-court rust.

“There was a bit of a challenge with the schedule since I did my on-the-job training immediately after practices,” said management accountancy student Nicole Louise Salomon, who won the Mixed Doubles title along with partner Jon Nathan Petalcorin. It was a sweet victory for Nicole since this is her last year in the team.

“Being back in training felt good since I only did jogging and baking to stay fit and battle boredom during lockdown,” the hospitality management student from Bohol shared. Nathan started playing badminton since kindergarten, thanks to his father, who exposed him to the badminton club. The team felt that their early training did wonders for them in the tournament.

Compared to other sports like basketball, badminton may not be as popular in terms of competitive play here, but these guys considered it as their favorite.

“I started playing when I was in Grade 1. My mom always wanted me to play badminton,” said senior high student and Women’s Singles A champion in the secondary level, Trishia Valerie Acas. She then started competing when she was in Grade 3. Men’s Singles B Champion in the Tertiary level, John Resca Villegas, started playing during his high school freshmen years.

“I actually played basketball when I was in elementary school but started training for badminton years later. Then I started to compete in the regional meets,” narrated the physical education student, who also achieved three podium finishes in triathlon.

Even if they have competed a lot, they still admit to getting nervous before the games. They admit having different ways of psyching themselves up like talking to themselves in the mirror like what Mitzi does. Nicole does meditation while Nathan just keeps his nerves calm by playing video games. Trishia, on the other hand, considers prayers as the most effective way to maintain a winner’s mindset.

True enough they chose the right sport to excel in. They achieved this along with their other teammates Irish Arellano and John Vincent Espinoza (Gold - Mixed Doubles), Shanina Labay (Silver-Women’s Singles B), Allan Sadomia, Jr. and Juven Sabay (Bronze - Men’s Doubles), and Joan Israel (Bronze - Women’s Singles).

While some of them are in their last year already in the team, the others are looking forward to staying for the next Cesafi season and getting better. They all know that they have to also do good in their studies to have another opportunity at representing the school. And they are all determined to do that and keep the school spirit alive in the next Cesafi season.