POULSBO — Students from Victor Solier’s taekwondo studio recently came back to Poulsbo with fistfuls of medals, which isn’t unusual.
What is unusual is where they came back from.
Fourteen students between the ages of 9 and 18 travelled to the 2002 Junior Olympic competition, which was held this year in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn., the home of the Twins and Vikings.
“It was strange,” Solier said, noting that it was different to be competing under a giant dome.
Brad DeShano, who took gold medals in both forms (demonstration) and fighting, was a fan of the venue.
“It was a lot less crowded (than last year),” he said. “And there were actually seats.”
The North Kitsap representatives faced off with 5,000 other competitors from across the country.
The dojang, which recently moved into a new Viking Avenue studio, often sends competitors to national competitions.
To qualify for this one, students had to place in the top three at state, which was held earlier this year in Seattle.
Solier wasn’t surprised by the team’s success.
“We’re fortunate that we have a strong team when we go to state,” he said. “It’s because they’re used to national competition.”
“A majority of the students stay with the program. So last year’s experience transfers to this year, and this year’s experience will transfer to next,” he added.
Erin McManus, who earned a gold in forms, had a doubly happy trip: besides the medal, she celebrated her 16th birthday in Minnesota.
She was happy to earn the gold.
“I was surprised,” said the 16-year-old veteran of national competition. “Last year, I didn’t win anything.”
The team included Rachel Rear, who won bronze in forms; Arissan Ugles, who got silver in fighting and forms; B.J. Vaughan, who earned silver in forms; Brad DeShano, who earned gold in both fighting and forms; Kace Ugles, who also earned a double gold; Elijah DiStefano, who earned bronze in fighting and silver in forms; and Brian McEuin, who trains part-time in Poulsbo, who took gold in fighting.
The team also included Jerame Vaughan, Dylan Heckl, Kenneth McManus, Stephanie Hutchings, Victoria Hutchings, and Jennifer Berry.
B.J. Vaughan liked the spacious Metrodome — “There was more space than last year” — but has already set his sights elsewhere, training for the Junior Elite Team Trials, where he will represent the school Aug. 17.