NCTTA Leaders Honors Faithful Volunteers From Iowa
By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chairman
Traveling home to Iowa will be much sweeter for Jarol and Leah Duerksen.
Overseeing the practice area at the 2015 TMS College Table Tennis Championships in Wisconsin April 10-12 was a joy for the couple from Iowa City.
But the longtime NCTTA volunteers will make the 6-hour journey to the Hawkeye State feeling blessed. At Saturday night's festive championships awards dinner at an Eau Claire hotel, NCTTA leaders honored the Duerksens for their dedication and faithful service as wonderful volunteers at college table tennis championships around the nation.
"We were totally shocked, We had no idea it was coming,'' 78-year-old Jarol Duerksen said Sunday morning. Nearby, college players from schools around the USA and Canada pounded table tennis balls on 15 practice tables at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus. "We are amazed, delighted and thankful.''
Jarol and Leah Duerksen began volunteering at NCTTA tournaments six years ago. The first time was at the championships games at a community near Milwaukee in 2010. They've run practice tables at other NCTTA championship venues in cities like Rochester, Minnesota, Rockford, Illinois, and Monroeville, Pennsylvania in recent years. They drove 14 hours last April to make it to the 2014 tournament near Pittsburgh.
Volunteering at college table tennis tournaments got in their blood and they love it. "We have friends for life,'' Jarol said as the 2015 championship games neared the home stretch. "We are living the dream.''
Retired from Air Force duties, Jarol also volunteers as an admissions assistant for the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. A pastor for many years, Jarol and his wife,Leah, stay committed to table tennis year-round.
The couple invites people to play table tennis at their home in Iowa City every Wednesday evening. Players from Romania, India, Japan, China and the USA enjoy hitting the hollow white balls for hours and treasure the fellowship. Their community is home to the University of Iowa. In addition, the Duerksens are regulars at a table tennis club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 30 minutes away.
Volunteering at table tennis tournaments like the one attracting 250 top-notch college players to Eau Claire, Wisconsin has its rewards. "It's the people we meet, the friends we make,'' Leah says.
Back in 1956, Leah, 76, stood out as the "prettiest babe in the room'' at a college table tennis club in Portland, Oregon, Jarol told the audience at the awards banquet at the Clarion Hotel. One thing led to another and the table tennis friends got married.
"The Duerksens are fabulous volunteers and we deeply appreciate their years of dedicated service,'' says NCTTA President Willy Leparulo. "We depend on our superb teams of volunteers to make our tournaments successful year after year.''
The Duerksens worked many hours at the practice tables from Thursday through Sunday. They won't get much rest once they make it back to Iowa. Jarol and Leah will step up their own practices to get ready as table tennis players at the National Senior Games in July in Minneapolis. When it comes to their support of the Olympic sport of table tennis, the Iowans are always big winners
The 2015 TMS College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Visit Eau Claire and is one of the premier table tennis tournaments in North America featuring 6 events: Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles, and Men’s/Coed Teams, Women’s Teams. The event is sponsored by TMS International, Double Fish, Joola and PepPod.
Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the TMS College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 10th and continues through Sunday April 12th at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus.
The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) is a non-profit organization established exclusively for promoting the sport of table tennis at the college level. As the national governing body for college table tennis in the United States and Canada, NCTTA organizes intercollegiate competition throughout North America. www.nctta.org
About USA Table Tennis
Headquartered in Colorado Springs, USATT is the national organizing body for table tennis in the United States, serving 9,000+ members and nearly 300 clubs. USATT sanctions 200+ events a year including the US Open and US Nationals. USATT is affiliated with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), as well as the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). www.usatt.org