Two members of the Creston Judo Club earned medals at last month’s BC Judo championships in Abbotsford.
Judokas Kaeden Rendek and Dillon Hack both proved there is serious mojo happening in their dojo. Rendek, 11, took first place in the under-13 middleweight division, becoming Creston’s youngest-ever provincial champion. Dillon Hack, 18, placed second in the under-20 81-kilogram division and third in the seniors category in the same weight division.
The judokas, along with a couple dozen other participants, work out regularly in a new facility constructed in the lower level of Creston Place, which was constructed on Canyon Street this year. After years of moving from one rental location to another, the club members now enjoy a facility that has a sprung floor, male and female locker rooms, a coaches’ office and even a Cory Cannon mural that pays tribute to the club’s sensei, 90-year-old Joe Meers.
“Joe gets a big thanks from all of us for keeping judo going in Creston for all these years so we could get to this point,” instructor Munroe Albert said last week.
Albert’s involvement in judo began in 1986 under the tutelage of Bob Grunewald, who was replaced by Joe Meers shortly afterward. After graduating from Prince Charles Secondary School he left the area, continuing his judo practice in Brandon, Man., and Raymond, Alta. He returned to Creston 18 months ago to take up work with Rendek Construction and become a Creston Judo Club instructor.
Albert runs three classes for youths — a pre-judo class for ages four to six, and novice and advanced classes for ages seven to 14 — and he referees at competitions.
The new dojo has had a positive effect on club members, he said.
“We have had a tremendous amount of support from the community and volunteers have worked hard to make this club,” he said.
Kaeden’s father, Terry Rendek, whose company constructed the building (Creston and District Credit Union is the majority shareholder), said that the facility couldn’t have been completed without donations from many Creston businesses and trade suppliers.
“And we have always had such great support from the Town of Creston,” he said. “The town has been a great facilitator for the club and always seems to be there with help when we need it.”
The dojo takes up about a quarter of Creston Place’s basement, which was built with high ceilings to accommodate a variety of activities. Rendek said that upon completion, the rest of the basement could be leased by other non-profit groups at a reasonable rate.
Albert, who is clearly enjoying his work with Creston youth, said there is no better feeling than to see his students succeed in competition.
“It feels like I’ve come full circle,” he said. “Twenty-five years after starting out as a student I’m an instructor whose students are coming home with medals! …
“The competition that judo provides allows us to see how we measure up. I’ve made friends all over Western Canada through judo and it’s a very positive activity. Kids aren’t hanging around when they are here practising judo.”
“If we can get one kid out of the 7-Eleven parking lot and into this dojo, we have made a difference,” Rendek echoed. “And judo is a very economical sport.”
In fact, he added, the club is committed to seeing that no child will be turned away because his or her family can’t afford the costs.
Asked about how it feels to be a provincial champion after six years in the sport, Kaeden said it’s pretty exciting.
“I’ve been practising really hard,” he said. “You have to be confident when you go into a match.”
He smiles at the mention that sensei Joe refers to him Creston’s new “golden boy” in judo.
Kaeden won his first match in the championship’s round robin event, then lost one and went on to win his third. He was awarded a third victory when his competitor declined to take him on. A total of 38 competitors were vying for medals.
“When I won, I was thinking ‘I did it! I won!,’ ” he said. “We called sensei Joe (Meers) right after and we couldn’t hold the phone to our ear when we told him. He just screamed, ‘Yeahhhhhh!’ ”
Holder of an orange belt, Kaeden’s next step will be to earn a green belt, which he hopes to do in the next year or so. He is also a soccer player and swims regularly at the new aquatic centre, which contributes greatly to the stamina that helps him excel in both sports.
Hack, a brown belt holder, has been a judoka since he was 11. He lost his first match, then won the next two to earn second place in the under-20 division. He then took third place in the senior division, fighting men 20 to 40 years of age, some of whom hold black belts.
His next goal is to earn his black belt.
“I could do that by the end of the year if I push it,” he said. “I hope to attend the national junior championships next year. I’m going if I qualify.”
Dillon is a hunter and fisherman who enjoys working out in the gym.
“I like judo for the discipline it provides,” he said. “It gives me the drive to get things done. It makes me feel more calm and helps to balance out my life.”
Those last words bring a smile to Albert’s face.
“Judo helps you learn to take life as it comes to you,” he said. “You learn to try to find a positive action for whatever challenges you are faced with.”
For more information about the Creston Judo Club, contact Shannon Juurlink at 250-402-6737 or Sheila Qualtieri at 250-866-5269.