Arwen Bertrand has a humble demeanor when she talks about her success at karate.
Bertrand is so humble, in fact, that she might forget to mention her place atop the national rankings — that the USANKF, a national karate organization, has ranked her No. 1 in the 10-11 female category.
“Arwen’s level of commitment has always been high,” said Stoneybrook Karate instructor Tim Hilgenberg. “She’s just a good student. She never talks back, she’s always listening, she’s just like your model student.”
The Keene’s Crossing Elementary student is one of three from Stoneybrook Karate in Winter Garden who will try to qualify for the U.S. National Team at two karate competitions in July.
One of those competitors, Ben Harrison, is ranked No. 7 in his division.
The USANKF and AAU competitions allow competitors to make the national team.
Should any of the local fighters prove successful, they would be continuing a tradition of sorts. For every year that Stoneybrook Karate has had eligible competitors, someone has made the national team. To make the team, competitors must place in the top three positions at the national competitions.
Gian Paul Rivera, an athlete at Stoneybrook Karate, made the national team last year and is hoping to make it for a second year. This year, Rivera, a recent West Orange High School graduate, competes in the 18- to 34-age division, the most difficult division.
He hopes the experience will help lead him up to his lofty, but attainable, goal of making the U.S. Olympic team in karate in 2020. It is the first year karate will be included in the Olympics.
Both Bertrand and Rivera started karate young. He came during a summer camp and decided he didn’t want to leave. It took him about four and a half years to receive his black belt.
Bertrand was started when she was 8, when her friend showed her a pamphlet for karate. Bertrand went to a trial karate class.
“I just decided to stay,” she said.
Three-and-one-half years later, she received her black belt. All three say the love of karate keeps them coming back.
“You’re never done learning,” Rivera said.
Their dedication to the craft is not lost on their instructors.
“They’re super dedicated kids,” Hilgenberg said.
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].