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TABLE TENNIS: Weymouth show a strength in depth
TWENTY-SEVEN boys and eight girls from Weymouth travelled to Harewood College in Bourne-mouth for the Dorset Schools Individual Championships.
Most of the top places at the event were won by established Bournemouth players, but the Weymouth youngsters managed to secure podium finishes in every age group.
This is a significant achievement for Weymouth schools table tennis and shows the steady progress being made by boys and girls in the district.
Dorset coaches attended the event and commented on the strength in depth of the Wey-mouth squad, particularly in the under-11 and under-13 age groups.
Nine boys from Holy Trinity School competed in this section with Ollie James, Sam Burton, Tom Lydford and Billy Baker all playing very well to qualify from their groups to the knockout stages.
James then defeated Lydford 12-10 in the deciding game but lost to eventual winner Jordan Pang in the semi-final.
The beaten James bounced back from 2-0 down to win a third-place play-off 3-2 against Barney Jackson from Bourne-mouth.
There were 12 boys representing Budmouth, Wey Valley and All Saints and Jamie Blair, Will Jolliffe, Luke Dadds, Ben Han-nigan, James Mathie, Louie James and Ethan Gear all qualified to the knockout phase, Gear and James winning their respective groups.
After a slow start, it was Blair who progressed furthest, gaining in confidence in each round and making it all the way to the final where he lost 3-1 to county player Kai Major.
Budmouth and All Saints had six players between them in this section and four of the six qualifying places from the group stages went to those from the former.
The other two qualifiers were England number three Hugo Pang and Dorset Cadet captain Zac Dowling, so it was a tough ask to claim either first or second place.
In the end, it was a case of which Budmouth player would take third. Ben Graham beat Sam Millar in the group stages but then he lost to Tom Cherry in the next round.
Millar qualified from his group and saw off Brad Burroughs to set-up a third-place play-off against Budmouth A team-mate Cherry. This time, it was the steady defence of Millar that prevailed as he secured a 3-1 win.
Holy Trinity’s Rosa McKechnie played some of her best table tennis against a few of the older girls in the morning, but in the final, it was regional squad player Kayleigh Rees who managed to secure victory.
Wey Valley girls, fresh from winning the Dorset Under-13 team event, were looking to add to their recent success alongside representatives from Budmouth.
And it was April Heasman who made it to the final where she faced fellow county player Chloe Cass. The experience of the Bournemouth player won through in the end, but Heasman could be very pleased with her performance and the significant improvement made this year.
This was an all-Weymouth event, with Lily Cherry, Snigdha Maganti (Budmouth) and Lilla Baktai (All Saints) taking part.
It was disappointing there were no other Dorset entries, but the Weymouth girls had their own round-robin competition and Cherry deservedly retained the title she won last year.
She will again go on to represent Dorset in the schools finals in April in Doncaster.
* After the event, the squad for the next Dorset county match was announced.
Graham and Blair joined county girl regulars Maganti and Heasman in the squad for the first time.
Weymouth youth development officer Andy Millar was delighted with the performance of the whole squad.
He said: “The standard of play was terrific and the players’ attitude, win or lose, was fantastic and they really impressed the Dorset coaches watching.
“Table tennis is becoming a popular choice of sport for youngsters in the town at the moment. There are real opportunities for players to represent their school, town, or even the county in competitive events.”
The Weymouth & District Schools individual competition will take place on March 29 at All Saints School.
Anyone wishing to enter, or find out more about practice sessions on Mondays and Saturdays, can contact Andy Millar on 772743 or email a.millar212@ gmail.com
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