March Madness Returns to the NY Metro Area
The weekend of March 9-10, 2019, brought some of the nation’s top-ranked athletes from some of the best universities to the New York Metropolitan area for a much-anticipated regional athletic championship tournament. The reigning national championship team once again captured first place honors as they solidified their spot in the upcoming national championship tournament. Yes, while there was some sort of collegiate tournament taking place at New York City’s Madison Square Garden (the NCAA's Big East men’s basketball championship), that event did not include among its participants the reigning National Champion team and a U.S. Olympic athlete. Those elite athletes were competing in the Westchester County village of Pleasantville, NY, at the Northeast Regional Championship Tournament of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA).
Competing alongside U.S. Olympian and New York University Sports Management major, Yijun (Tom) Feng, were athletes from Brandies University, Boston University, Brooklyn College, Brown University, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NYU, Rutgers University, S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of Connecticut. Held at the ever-popular Westchester Table Tennis Center, an enthusiastic crowd was on-hand to cheer on their favorite college teams.
In the co-ed team competition, current national champion NYU captured 1st place honors while Rhode Island’s Brown University took home the 2nd place trophy. Finishing in a very respectable 3rd place was the team from uptown rival Columbia University.
The NYU ladies also brought 1st place trophies in the Women’s Team and Women’s Singles competition back home to Washington Square. The Brown University women’s team took 2nd place honors and the women from MIT claimed 3rd place in the Team competition. First place in the Women’s Singles went to NYU engineering student and Team Captain, Joanna Song, with Jiarou Quan of Brown University claiming 2nd place honors. When asked to comment on the quality of the competition, the newly crowned Northeast Regional Women's Singles Champion noted that "the level of competition has changed in recent years. This year we definitely see more proactive students and schools coming together to compete. Its exciting to meet other players in the region and see intense matches together."
Above: NYU's Women's Singles Champion, Joanna Song
Below: Jiarou Quan of Brown University on her way to 2nd Place Honors
Joanna went on to say that, "the NYU women's team win means a great deal since we have many new players this year and it was a bit nerve racking to see how well they would fare. This gives them a sense of accomplishment after our hard work and encourages us to train harder. It also boosts our team spirit and morale. Our coach is also very proud of us all. Our team is very supportive of one another and are the best cheerleaders. Winning the singles title definitely changes my mentality and gives me more hope in continuing to nationals."
As was expected, the NYU men’s team proved unbeatable with U.S. Olympian and Sports Management major, Yijun (Tom) Feng winning 1st place honors and NYU student and U.S. National Team member Adar Alguetti capturing 2nd.
Although the level of competition in the NCTTA is not quite at Olympic levels, Tom Feng told MetroSports Magazine that “while not as competitive as the Olympic and pro levels, the level of competition in the NCTTA is growing and that everyone is trying their best and everyone is having fun.” He went on to tell us that winning in the NCTTA is as important to him as his accomplishments in the Olympics because “every championship means a lot to me and is a reflection of much hard work and, I get to represent NYU. I hope that my Olympic experience can help influence the other students I compete with and elevate the whole NCTTA.” A respectful and humble man, Feng said, “I’d like to thank my coach because he worked so hard to make the NYU team, and each of us, stronger than before.”
Above: U.S. Olympian and NYU Marketing Major, Tom Feng, in the Championship match against team mate Adar Alguetti
That coach is Yanjun Gao, himself a former NCTTA National Champion and currently the NCTTA’s Coach of the Year. In an interview with MetroSports Magazine, Coach Gao told us that, “I am so happy to win the coed and women’s team events and the 1st and 2nd place men’s singles events, as expected and, surprisingly, the women’s single title as well.” He went on to say the, “they all did an amazing job” and that “the NYU community is excited about the team heading to nationals to try to repeat as National Champions.” The admiration between coach and athletes is mutual as Joanna Song returned praise upon her coach stating, "Coach Gao deserves praise, staying with us and making sure each one of us has his attention. He also makes us cheer for one another. He helped calm me down during my matches and gave insightful tips when I needed to hear them the most. NYU has one of the best coaches."
Above: NYU's Coach Gao conferring with Joanna Song during her finals match
When he’s not busy coaching his NYU team to national championships, you can find coach Gao competing as an athlete at table tennis tournament throughout the NY Metropolitan region including at the Westchester Table Tennis Center.
More Photos from Sunday's Singles Action posted at https://wr-photo.com/p185737282