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Johnson and St. Lewis give City 1-2 punch in badminton


City College's dimly lighted gymnasium is home to one of the most successful spring sports teams in the City-Wide league.

While the lacrosse, baseball, tennis, softball and track and field teams are in full view practicing on the school grounds, the girls badminton team practices in near obscurity in the gym.

With rackets that are less than a half-inch thick and weigh less than a pound, the Knights (7-0) have wielded their way past their competition.

The team has won the City-Wide championship the past two years and, if it continues its dominance this season, could be on the way to its third.

Seniors Na'tisha Johnson and Tracy St. Lewis head the Knights' singles lineup at the No. 1 and No. 2 positions, respectively. Both are three-year members of the team.

Johnson compiled an 11-1 record at No. 1 last year and is 7-0 this season. St. Lewis was 16-0 last year at No. 3 singles and is 7-0 at No. 2 this year.

"They are both outstanding athletes and they are fierce competitors," City coach Jessica Ivy said.

Ivy also coaches volleyball and is the dance director at the school. Most of the players on her team got their first exposure to badminton in their sophomore year through physical education classes.

Such was the case with Johnson and St. Lewis, who did not pick up a racket until their sophomore years. That season the two teamed at No. 2 doubles and went undefeated during the regular season en route to a City-Wide tournament championship.

"A lot of people think that it is boring, but when you really get into it, it is pretty intense," Johnson said.

This not the typical backyard game of badminton. Their strokes are swift and powerful, with large backswings and sweeping motions.

"I've always been aggressive, and I try to put everything I have into everything I do, whether it's a smash, clear or dig," Johnson said.

St. Lewis said: "Most people think it's just hitting it hard. They think it's an easy game."

Johnson and St. Lewis said there is only one way to convince people of their ability.

"I play them and I beat them," St. Lewis said.

"The guys on the lacrosse team hit around with us and love to play us," Johnson said. "But, of course, we win."

That result is not surprising for Johnson. She has not lost more than three points in a game all season.

Last year, St. Lewis won the No. 3 singles title. Johnson, who did not play in the tournament last year, thinks she has a good chance of winning her first singles title at this year's Baltimore City Individual Badminton Tournament at the Poly-Western Complex May 20-21.

"If I stay focused and determined, there is no limit on what I can do," Johnson said.

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