Ping pong swings into action

Although their numbers are few, their spirit is mighty.

The members of Auburn's table tennis club can pack quite a wallop with their rackets despite being one of the University's smallest organizations.

"In the late 1980s, I met with other local table tennis players at Auburn, and around 1987 or 1988 we decided to put together the club," club faculty advisor James Cross said.

Cross is one of the founding fathers of the club and a long-time player himself since taking up the sport in college.

He played in tournaments in Europe and Asia and enjoys playing locally as well.

Like Cross, club president Ping Huang also became interested in table tennis during college. Huang said he started playing in 2000 while working on his bachelor's degree at the Northeast Forestry University in China.

Huang came to Auburn in the fall of 2008 and said he used to play table tennis at the Christian Student Center on South College Street before discovering the University's team. He has been involved with the club since last fall.

"The reason I joined is pretty simple," Huang said. "Table tennis is my favorite sport, and I like to find people who also like to play."

Huang said he has also met some of his best friends through playing table tennis, including his wife of two years and fellow player, Julia Xu.

Recruitment for the club begins in the summer, when interested players contact Cross about joining. Cross said the club usually has 15 to 20 members each year, many already seasoned table tennis players. However, they also have members who have never taken up a racket before.

"We have five tables set up, and the players at each table have a different level of experience," Cross said. "The players at the top two or three tables are the ones who make up the team."

Auburn's table tennis team competes in the Georgia division of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association almost every year.

In 2007, the women's team placed fifth at the national championship while the men's team ranked 16th.

While proud of the team's achievements, Cross said there is more to the club than having a great competitive team.

"Making the team isn't the focus of our club," Cross said. "Our members are there mainly to have fun and play table tennis."

Cross said the club occasionally allows visitors to drop in during practice sessions and play as guests with the club, as long as they realize what they're up against.

"Our members are very competitive," Cross said. "It's not just recreational play."

The table tennis club is open to all Auburn University students, faculty and staff members.

The club meets every week from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday in Room 207B at the Student Activities Center.

A $5 membership fee is required to join the club.

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