All-Empire boys badminton: Santa Rosa standout Liam Galbraith made remarkable strides

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa's Liam Galbraith (PD photo).

Santa Rosa’s Liam Galbraith (PD photo).

Most athletes practice and compete for years before becoming the best in their sport. Not Liam Galbraith.

In less than a year, the Santa Rosa High student has gone from novice to the top prep badminton player in the Redwood Empire.

This past season as a sophomore, Galbraith didn’t lose a North Bay League match and helped his team win the league championship.

His accomplishments made him a clear-cut selection for All-Empire Player of the Year.

While Galbraith is a badminton natural, he also put in the time and work the past year to become the best.

Among his admirers is Panthers coach Brett Williams.

“I’ve never seen a kid get good in a sport as quickly as Liam has,” said Williams, who recently completed his sixth year at Santa Rosa.

“He’s the most driven athlete I’ve seen. I haven’t been around anyone that can match his work ethic.”

After practice or a team match, Galbraith’s day is just beginning.

He spends most evenings and weekends at the Santa Rosa Boys & Girls Club playing pick-up games. When not on the court, he’s lifting weights or doing endurance training.

“He’s a really smart kid and he uses his head during matches,” Williams said. “He adjusts his game rapidly to an opponent’s weakness. He’s that rare combination of a smart and driven athlete.”

His freshman year he was on the swim team and competed in the 500 freestyle and 200 IM.

Then last summer, Galbraith joined friends and began playing recreational badminton.

“I loved it right away,” he recalled. “It’s a great workout and I like thinking on my feet.”

Galbraith quickly transitioned to a great player.

“There’s a lot more to the game than just hitting the birdie over the net,” he said. “Strategy and conditioning are involved. You want to get your opponent off balance and stretching to hit the birdie back. If it does come back, he’ll pop it up and that leads to a slam.”

Assistant coach Debra LaPrath is another admirer.

“One of the things I noticed is that he never lets up on an opponent,” she said. “He’s persistent and has a will to win that you rarely see.

ALL-EMPIRE TEAM

BOYS PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Liam Galbraith, Santa Rosa, sophomore

BOYS FIRST TEAM

Dylan Freitas, Montgomery, senior

Riley Hardin, Analy, senior

Nick Kulawink, Maria Carrillo, senior

Deon Labrador, Santa Rosa, senior

Tony Lin, Casa Grande, sophomore

Jason Nguyen, Windsor, senior

Nick Ogden, Casa Grande, senior

Oliver Staten, Santa Rosa, sophomore

Sam Tran, Windsor, senior

ALL-EMPIRE TEAM

GIRLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Claudia Rohrs, Santa Rosa, senior

GIRLS FIRST TEAM

Sonya Dexter, Analy, senior

Aylin Erden, Maria Carrillo, senior

Jennie Higashi, Windsor, senior

Emily Hulsman, Casa Grande, senior

Vicky Nguyen, Piner, senior

Theodora Po, Casa Grande, senior

Maddie Thomas, Petaluma, junior

Steffanie Tran, Piner, senior

Serena Uppal, Montgomery, senior

COACH OF THE YEAR

Brett Williams, Santa Rosa

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