Pingpong madness hits Wilk


The atmosphere was tense as competitors warmed up with the sound of pingpong balls hitting paddles, hitting the net and — occasionally — hitting people. With the matching outfits, sweatbands and paddle cases one might think they were at a Wimbledon match.

Every semester pingpong players surface to play in the Student Activities Board-sponsored pingpong tournament. Wednesday night 64 students came to play to win the championship, held in the Wilkinson Student Center.

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy of Zane Hamilton” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Glo Kamae, an event planner for the Student Activities Board said their activities, like the pingpong tournament, are almost all free and are designed to maximize student participation.

Aspiring pingpong champion, Rob Nielsen, a senior from Antioch, Calif., studying genetics and biotechnology , said he enjoys pingpong because it is a time for him to get away from the pressures of school.

“It’s cheap, it’s fun, its strategic and stretches your mind in a new way,” he said.

Bryce Shurtliff, a sophomore from Idaho Falls, Idaho, studying physics, said he got into pingpong because it was easy to play with friends.

“It is super simple to just play a pick-up game while you’re waiting to do things,” he said.

The tournament even brought the injured out to play.

Scott Carter, a freshman from Mesa, Ariz., studying chemical engineering, played with a dislocated right arm. Despite being right-handed, Carter did not let that stop him from competing. After much practice, he competed left-handed.

Along with the wounded, came the fanatics.

Andy Gannaway, a freshman from Rexburg, Idaho, studying political science, came in a Boy Scout uniform, goggles and a homemade paddle holster, his equipment of intimidation. He also said he considers his paddle a secret weapon.

“I’m able to maneuver around difficult situations that my opponent gets me into, making it so that the situation isn’t difficult at all,” he said.

But Gannaway’s paddle was no match for Brandon Packard’s backspin and cookie monster hat. Packard is a junior philosophy major from Houston, Texas.

A heated competition like this takes more than a few hours of prep; many competitors have been playing pingpong for years.

“I grew up playing it with my dad and brother and just entered on a whim,” said Stephanie Hedges, a sophomore from Huntsvillem studying public health.

After a long night of intense competition, junior John Chan, chemical engineering major from Singapore, came out victorious. Chan has played pingpong since he was 8 years old. He played three to four times a week, three hours each session. He played vigorously in school and won many championships.

“It’s just in my blood,” Chan said.

Though he has 16 years of experience and an amateur championship under his belt, Chan has no plans to try out for the Olympics in pingpong.

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