TRAVERSE CITY — With a pair of state titles and a district championship between them, Yvonne St. Croix and Tre Powis already have shown a knack for competing at a high level in taekwondo.
That has earned the two siblings the right to put themselves up against the best the world has to offer.
Both are set to travel to Little Rock, Ark. in less than two weeks for the American Taekwondo Association World Championships.
Powis, 12, is the reigning state and district champion and will compete in forms, sparring, weapons and combat at the world event. St. Croix, 7, and a state champion, will compete on the big stage in weapons and forms.
“It’s big,” said Master Chris Pline, owner of Traverse City ATA Martial Arts, where the two children train. “There will be thousands of competitors down there at the world championships.”
Both of the kids have found success despite being relatively new to the sport. Powis has been involved in taekwondo for two years and St. Croix for only 10 months.
“It’s really fun,” St. Croix said of taekwondo. “And you can actually defend yourself when you’re doing it. I had been seeing it in movies and I thought it looked really, really cool so I started doing it.”
St. Croix, a blue belt (four steps below a black belt), is going to the event with a care-free attitude, happy to be participating and the excitement of seeing the multitude of competitors from across the globe.
“I know it’s going to be fun getting to watch all the other contestants and cheering,” she said, adding that her three goals are “to do my best, make new friends and have fun.”
Her brother acknowledges the trip to the world championships will be a big step.
“It’s worlds, Australia and everybody is coming to the event,” he said. “The magnitude, I didn’t feel it at first, but once I got to be district champion I thought, ‘wow, this is going to be a really big step.’ It’s going to be really tough for me.”
The challenge he faces has become greater as he will be competing for the first time since earning his black belt.
“It changes things a lot,” Powis said. “I had to learn a new weapons form. It’s a lot harder because everything is different in black belt than in a color belt form. For me, it’s a lot of work and the time I put into it, but it pays off in the end.”
Powis has set his sights high for a good placing.
“I’m hoping for a top 10 in forms and sparring,” he said. “I got district champ in forms and sparring. (I’m hoping for) a top 20 for weapons and combat sparring.”
Pline has no doubt that his pupils will represent themselves well.
“They’re very dedicated, focused, they set clear goals for themselves and they work toward them,” he said. “They’re going to do great. They’re dedicated enough to push themselves and their parents encourage them.”
Powis and St. Croix train a few times per week in classes and another few times per week in private sessions, with guidance from Pline’s wife, Judy, herself a world champion and an instructor at the ATA facility. Powis gives Judy Pline credit for what he’s been able to achieve so far in his career.
“I had a lot of help with Mrs. Pline,” he said. “She helped me a lot to get to this point.”
Powis admits that the success he’s had has surprised him a bit.
“At first I didn’t think I was this good, but when I got higher in the ranks I felt better about myself, had more confidence and now I’m going to worlds,” he said.