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Table tennis team competes across state

On February 15, 2012

Most students know about the football, basketball and gymnastics teams at USU, but what about table tennis? Also known as pingpong, the sport has become increasingly popular in the past few years, and now students at USU are becoming interested in it - enough to create a campus club for students to play regularly.

Jaron Dunford, a junior majoring in public relations, said he and his friends decided USU needed a table tennis club last year.

"We recognized there was a need," Dunford said. "A couple buddies and I started the club."

There was actually already a table tennis club in existence, but it had not been active for a while, so it was re-formed, Dunford said, by him and a few of his friends.

Dunford said he is now the president of the club and has found there is more to running a club than just having a good time with other students.

"It is a lot more work than I expected," Dunford said, adding that he has to go to meetings with the council of student clubs and organizations, also known as CSCO.

"We have to think of ways to get people to come," Dunford said. "We also have to work on retention - we have to figure out ways to get people to come back."

Troy Vawdrey, a sophomore majoring in engineering, said coming back after his first visit wasn't hard, and it was actually a pleasant surprise for him.

"I came (to the HPER Building) to play basketball, and they said the gyms were full," said Vawdrey. "They said the pingpong tables were up here, so I checked it out."

Vawdrey said he had always really liked to play table tennis, but had never played competitively at all. When he was told about the club's practices, he said he decided to check them out. He now practices with the club regularly.

Vawdrey said being a part of the team is a good way to meet lots of different people, plus to see just how well he can play.

"There's really all sorts (of talent levels) on the team," Vawdrey said. "I came to first see where I was, and it doesn't really matter how good you are."

Though Vawdrey is fairly new to the club, he said he has already seen how the team is able to work together, teach each other and have fun.

For their twice-a-week practices, the club members play each other in games to work on new things, to improve and to learn from one another, he said.

"You get to see certain people's strengths, and others weaknesses," Vawdrey said. "Everyone can kind of help each other out."

Landry Toomer, a senior majoring in management information systems, said this is also one of his favorite things about the club.

"Any skill level can come play," Toomer said. "Some are good and some are just learning who maybe started just a month ago."

For Toomer, one of the vice presidents of the club, playing with pingpong is a break from work and school that gives him something else to do each week.

"It's just fun. We just do it for fun," Toomer said. "It's fun to meet new people and to play against new people."

Toomer is one of the two best players in the club, Dunford said. He has been with the club for about a year and a half, and helped Dunford and others re-form the club.

However, the joy of playing is what Toomer is there for.

"It really is fun," Toomer said. "It doesn't cost a thing, you can just go in and play."

Dunford said what he likes most about the club is "anyone can come."

"You don't have to be good. It's OK if you're bad, it's just fun," Dunford said.

Dunford said he also sees table tennis as a way to get to know new people and as a different way to be involved.

Though the club started out as uncompetitive, they have since joined the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and compete against other university teams in the state, Dunford said.

In a NCTTA tournament held at the University of Utah on Jan. 28, the USU table tennis team took second place overall, competing against other universities, including Weber State, Brigham Young University and the U of U, Dunford said.

"We are in the Rocky Mountain division, which basically includes Utah, Wyoming (and) Idaho," Dunford said. "They host tournaments for us. The winners of divisions then get to go onto nationals."

Dunford said even though the team is new, he has seen improvement in those who've joined.

"We started it to have fun, but then to add the competition level was to add more of a new dimension besides just having fun," Dunford said.12

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