Three Wimmera hockey players took on the best in Victoria at the Junior State Championships last week.
Warracknabeal’s Sandon Schultz and Kaniva’s Luke Shalders represented the North West Lightning in the Under 17 and Under 15 age groups respectively, and Yanac’s Mikayla Farmers played for the South West Eagles Under 17 girls team.
The Lightning zone encompasses the north western quarter of Victoria and is one of four country and six metropolitan zones that participate in the championships.
Both the North West Lightning Under 17 boys and girls teams were the best-placed team from this zone, finishing fifth in their divisions.
In his first experience at the championships, Sandon Schultz played in all six games.
The Under 17 boys Lightning team started their tournament with a scoreless draw against the South West Country Eagles.
Their second match was against Southern Metro Sharks and although they led by a goal for most of the match, a late goal by the Sharks proved costly ending in another draw.
A six-goal loss was suffered at the hands of the eventual premiers, the North West Metro Tigers, and saw the Lightning relegated to third in their pool, which saw them playoff for positions five to eight.
Their match against North East Metro Red Devils saw a 2-1 victory and they followed this with an emphatic four-goal win over the North East Country Knights, which earned them top spot in this pool.
They again met the North East Metro Red Devils in the playoff for fifth place and when this game finished in a nil all draw, due to their finishing position, the Lightning team retained that position in the final standings.
The Lightning Under 15 boys did not enjoy as much success, winning only two of their seven games for the tournament and finishing in eighth position out of 10 teams.
The wins came over the South West Country Eagles by one goal and by two goals over the South East Country Cougars, the two teams that finished below the Lightning.
This was Luke Shalders’ fifth consecutive year representing the Lightning.
Mikayla Famers received a late call-up to play for the South West Eagles, and despite being of an age that she could have played in the Under 15 team, she held her own in the Under 17 division.
The Eagles started their tournament with a two-goal loss to the North West Metro Tigers, the eventual premiers, and this proved to be their worst result until a three-goal loss to the Western Metro Wildcats in their last game. They ultimately finished in eighth position.
All three players will bring back invaluable experience which they can build on and share with their teammates.