Re-printed with the permission of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald
Judo club members off to major meet
By Matthew Gourlie
Moose Jaw Times-Herald

A trio of local competitors from the Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club have already tested the waters of national competition.

This weekend in Toronto they are hoping to make more of a splash.

Mark Kerr, Kailey Large and Stephanie Legault were chosen to represent Saskatchewan at the prestigious Ontario Open this weekend. All three made their Junior nationals debut last year and are hoping to build on that experience.

"I went last year and lost both matches," said Kerr who is the only one of three to have previously attended the meet. "I know what the competition is like and I want to do my best."

The three competitors are still at the young end of the junior level and a good performance will build points towards qualifying for nationals again next summer. Despite some promising results at their first junior nationals last summer -- Legault lost the bronze medal match, Kerr finished seventh and Large fought through an injury in a tough field -- the trio are trying to keep their expectations in check, despite the real possibility of a breakthrough meet.

"If they can all finish in the top five, I think that's a reasonable goal," said instructor Cliff Wiens. "With a break I think they can slip into medals. I think it is going to be the start of big things for them all."

All three still have at least two years of eligibility remaining at the junior level. Kerr will be competing in the junior men under-90 kg, Legault in under-63 kg junior women and Large in under-57 kg junior women.

Large has the hardest group of the bunch, with former provincial standout Kim Hardie looking to carry on after she claimed the junior national title last year.

"Kailey's in a tough, tough group," said Wiens. "(Hardie) is ranked 13th in the world and two more are in the top 20 in the world."

That sort of competition is enough to make anyone nervous, but a day before the flight to Toronto, Large felt her anxiety might be a good thing.

"I'm excited, but I'm very nervous," said Large. "At nationals my first fight was my best and I was really nervous then.

"I'm still one of the younger (judoka)," said Large who is feeling increasingly confident that she can hold her own and is looking to "do a little more attacking" and try to dictate the pace of the bout.

Legault is also feeling more confident, but cautiously so as she prepares for her trip.

"I do want to win some fights, but I don't want to set my goals too big," said Legault who felt her technique has improved since junior nationals. "It's pretty much the same people (as nationals), but there will be more tougher people from Ontario and Quebec."

Though Legault and Large are in different weight classes they compete against each other in provincial competition in a combined weight class. In a recent meet in Melfort Large got the better of Legault taking gold.

The Koseikan Club brought home 10 gold, eight silver and five bronze from Melfort. In addition a separate division was contested for competitors that will build points towards qualifying for the provincial team for the 2003 Canada Winter Games.

The Koseikan will host the regional beginners tournament for competitors 12 and under in Moose Jaw Dec. 8 and a women's provincial competition on Dec. 15.

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