By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chairman
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire family enjoys serving as the host school at the biggest collegiate table tennis tournament in North America.
It's the same role that institution supporters relished two years ago as the school in northern Wisconsin hosted the championship games. The April 2015 event attracted about 300 of the best collegiate table tennis players in the USA and Canada.
Students on the host team don't have far to travel in early April. They're packing their paddles and will give it their best shot. But really, they don't expect to pull off huge upsets against Texas Wesleyan University, Mississippi College, Lindenwood, McGill, and other mighty schools playing this fast-paced Olympic sport.
Alex Tollison, 22, of Tomahawk, Wisconsin, is serving his 4th year as the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire president. He helped organize the national tournament in 2015, and will be in the thick of things as the 2017 version unfolds April 7-9.
He's got more on his plate than table tennis. Alex looks forward to going to graduate school next summer at the Northwestern Chiropractic College in Bloomington, Minnesota. Yes, there is life after table tennis. But Alex, who's in his final semester, just wants to savor the moment as the championship games begin soon.
Fans of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Bluegolds sports teams are also pumped as the table tennis action comes to their hometown. "We get a small taste of big competition when we play our divisional games against the University of Minnesota and Iowa. Both teams do well in Nationals and we have our hands full when we play them,'' Alex says.
The competition in early April gets that much tougher for UW-Eau Claire against schools like perennial champ Texas Wesleyan of Fort Worth. "All that we look to do is play our game and try to have fun,'' Tollison says.
Wisconsin-Eau Claire players include Connor Iaquinta, a criminal justice major from Franklin, Wisconsin. He's the team's top paddler. Others include No. 2 Lukas Carlson, a liberal arts illustration major from White Bear Lake, Minnesota and Jared Stone, an English major from Madison, Wisconsin, is considered the third best on the college squad.
With a heavy focus on liberal arts and a strong School of Business, the U of Wisconsin at Eau Claire enrolls 11,000 students. Located 90 minutes from Minneapolis, the school showcases its beautiful campus. A scenic Wisconsin park ( Putnam Park) is located in the middle of campus. There are plenty of nearby restaurants in downtown Eau Claire to please people of all tastes and ages. Students are also pretty smart at Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Recently, some of them built an inexpensive and effective solar-powered water heater.
The Wisconsin-Eau Claire students will be shine in other ways as hardworking volunteers to make the 2017 TMS college table tennis championships a success. Players will help with scorekeeping along with the grunt work: the setup and teardown of the venue on their campus.
"We are extremely excited,'' Alex Tollison says. "We can't wait to hold this event again!.''
The 2017 TMS College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Eau Claire CVB 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, Gerflor, Double Fish
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 7th and continues through Sunday April 9th.
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