All-Empire Girls Badminton: Montgomery’s Tong repeats as player of the year

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Montgomery's Jennie Tong (Photo by Conner Jay, The Press Democrat)

Montgomery’s Jennie Tong (Photo by Conner Jay, The Press Democrat)

One of the best to ever swing a racquet in Empire prep history — boy or girl — Jennie Tong baffled opponents with a dizzying array of shots.

Repeating as All-Empire Badminton Girls Player of the Year, the Montgomery ace ends her high school career with an exceptional seven honors as one of the region’s finest in both badminton and tennis.

“Jennie had a very impressive record. She definitely grew into her strengths,” said Montgomery badminton coach Jason Krout.

Going undefeated the past two North Bay League badminton seasons, Tong defended her league singles title to earn another trip to the North Coast Section tournament. In the fall she reached the NBL singles tennis championship.

“I always want to be the best. That’s what drives me,” Tong said.

Tennis was Tong’s first love, taking up the game at age 5. She was a natural with quick feet and a steady stroke.

“From a young age I was fast and had good hand eye coordination,” she said. “It was fun.”

Tong would make All-Empire in girls tennis doubles twice and singles as a senior. She ran cross country the fall of her junior year.

Badminton for Tong came in middle school physical education classes, where most Empire players pick up the game.

When she found it was a varsity sport in high school, Tong took quickly to badminton at Montgomery. Tong rose up the rankings quickly and played number one singles for the Vikings all four years — earning All-Empire each season.

The same shot making skills that made her tough to beat in tennis were an even greater asset indoors. On the smaller badminton court opponents often can more easily rundown attempted winners.

“She has all the shots down. She got better at working her opponents,” Krout said. “She definitely learned how to work smarter and use her skills.”

Despite earning player of the year honors as a junior, Tong trained for an even stronger senior season. Tong improved her overall fitness, including an additional physical education class at Montgomery.

She played more in the off season at University of Sports.

“I had more strategy and a game plan. It makes your opponents run and gets them tired,” Tong said.

The aim was having more success at NCS. “It’s tough competition. But I was ready for the higher level,” Tong said. “I was hitting really well at the end.”

Sections were even tougher this season. For the first time badminton was divided into large and small school divisions. So every Division 1 match was tough, as Tong learned.

Just as important to Tong was leading Montgomery to another NBL title, as the Vikings went undefeated in league play.

“It was fun to socialize and help coach the younger players,” Tong said. “It helped us get in better shape. They were a little bit more mentally prepared.”

There was no doubt in Krout’s mind that Tong would excel as a team captain.

“She was my go-to player,” Krout said. “She did great passing on her knowledge and skills. Her legacy will live on.”

Developing leadership skills was a goal for Tong as a senior after deciding to enlist in the U.S. Army.

She recently entered basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, in Missouri, and wants to go into the military police.

“It’s a nice fit for me mentally anf physically,” Tong said. “I’m excited.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

ALL-EMPIRE TEAM

BOYS PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Alex Trinh, Santa Rosa, Sr.

GIRLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Jennie Tong, Montgomery, Sr.

FIRST TEAM

Boys Singles

Sam Tran, Windsor, Jr.

Justin Bates, Santa Rosa, Sr.

Girls Singles

Claudia Rohrs, Santa Rosa, Jr.

Vicky Nguyen, Piner, Jr.

Boys Doubles

Albert Nguyen, Sr., and Tyler Krause, Sr., Montgomery

Girls Doubles

Lauren Gross, Sr., and Katherine Gross, Sr., Montgomery

Mixed Doubles

Jason Nguyen, Jr., and Tiffany Gaig, Sr., Windsor

SECOND TEAM

Boys Singles

David Harris, Maria Carrillo, Jr.

Mark Diez, Montgomery

Girls Singles

Marissa Nguyen, Maria Carrillo, Sr.

Justine Tiongson, Santa Rosa

Boys Doubles

Josh Hovden, Jr., and Riley Harden, Jr., Analy

Girls Doubles

Emily Hulsman, Jr., and Theodora Po, Jr., Casa Grande

Mixed Doubles

Tommy Wikle, Jr., and Serena Uppal, Jr., Montgomery

COACH OF THE YEAR

Jason Krout, Montgomery

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