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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘Lifelong sport’: Table tennis team embraces competition, community

If visitors made their way from the gravely parking lot into the Sunset Banquet Hall, they would be greeted by the sound of tennis balls pinging against paddles. The spacious building has several table tennis tables set up, which were all filled with students and community members on Tuesday evening.

 As a freshman, Carter Murdock joined the Wichita State table tennis team on a whim — two years later, he’s now the team president.

 “What made me stay with the team really was the sport itself,” Murdock said. “It’s a very fun sport, very fast-paced. It requires a lot of attention, dedication.”

 The table tennis team consists of six players this year: three returning members and three newcomers. While Murdock said last year didn’t go as planned — the team failed to compete in regionals as hoped — he said this will be a “rebuild year” after other experienced players graduated.

 Murdock said it involves building a sense of community among the team and helping new players develop a more serious level of practice.

 “We do bring a serious mentality to how we practice to prepare us for the individual tournaments,” Murdock said. “(Our coach) does a great job of helping us train correctly, not just coming here and wasting time, (but) actually coming here with a plan, with a mission to get better.”

 Wichita State table tennis coach P. J. Alexander, who played on the team as a WSU student, said that they didn’t get a lot of support back when starting in the 2007-2008 school year, but after making it to the national championship that year, WSU provided more funding.

Alexander, who has coached for 15 years, said he is grateful for the team’s relationship with the Wichita Table Tennis Club and the ability to practice in a large venue.

“Table tennis is a lifelong sport,” Alexander said. “Like, you can play it from an early age, and you can continue playing it until you’re much older, and it’s fun.”

Peter Burns, a first-year player, had grown up playing table tennis with his father and hoped to improve his skills by joining the team. He said he has liked his experience so far and getting to know his teammates.

 “(It’s) just a real competitive environment, which is something I enjoy,” Burns said.

 The table tennis team attends sanctioned tournaments all year, but their performance at the two divisional tournaments help determine whether they qualify for regionals in the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

 Murdock said the first divisional tournament in November will serve as a “learning experience” for new members, with the experienced players helping to guide them.

 At the second tournament in February, Murdock expects the team will do very well and hopes they will qualify for regionals. Chris Prout, a second-year player, echoed the desire to win.

 “I like competition,”  Prout said. “I feel (that table tennis) requires a lot of coordination, and … it’s very satisfying to just hit the ball hard.”

 Both players expressed a love for competing in the tournaments. Prout said his favorite part was the camaraderie.

 “I’ve loved when we go traveling somewhere, and we’re all together and we all go hang out,” Prout said.

 Having attended all the divisional tournaments for the past two years, Murdock said the “team environment” makes the experience great.

 “The whole team is there supporting you. Usually you have friends and family who come out to support you as well,” Murdock said. “It’s a very high stakes environment, so (it’s) a lot of stress but a very exciting, very exciting atmosphere. It gets very serious and challenging. “

 Murdock said he was also excited to have proved himself last year, defeating a skilled opponent at the second divisional tournament.

 “It was a pretty even rated match, but it took a lot of courage for me to go out there and play as I needed to beat my opponent,” Murdock said.

 Community members range in race, ethnicity and age, including an 85-year-old man from China.

 “It’s a really cool place to see all of the community members: the diversity of age, language, race … That’s really one of the greatest things about the club, is just all the different people that you’re meeting,” Murdock said.

 Prout, who enjoys the social interaction with the community members, said he thinks that practicing against them gives their table team an advantage compared to other schools.

 “(Other teams are) only playing against each other that are at a similar level, and some of the community members here are a lot better than some of the people who we’re playing at tournaments,” Prout said.

 For anyone who does table tennis recreationally, Murdock wants them to know that they can learn to play competitively.

 “I would say that most people are capable of playing at a high level on the team,” Murdock said. “We are actually in a simple sport to learn and actually a simple sport to play.”

 The table tennis team practices on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings. More information can be found via their Facebook page.

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About the Contributors
Courtney Brown
Courtney Brown, News Editor
Courtney Brown is one of the news editors for The Sunflower. She previously worked as a reporter and assistant news editor. Brown uses she/her pronouns.
Kristy Mace
Kristy Mace, Photo Editor
Kristy Mace is the photo editor for The Sunflower. She's majoring in psychology. Currently a junior, Mace hopes to go on to get her Ph.D. and become a neuropsychologist. She also plays for Wichita State's bowling team and does professional photography aside from The Sunflower.

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