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‘Friendship First, Competition Second’ Is Theme of Conard vs. Hall Tourney

Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The first ever ping pong tournament between Conard and Hall was held Friday in West Hartford.

Jason Trieu from Conard. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jason Trieu from Conard. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The Conard and Hall ping pong clubs met Friday afternoon for some friendly yet spirited competition in their first ever tournament in the Conard High School cafeteria. A total of 12 students from each school competed, and Hall Principal Dan Zittoun also challenged Conard Principal Julio Duarte in an intense match.

Chinese teacher Bing Liu started Conard’s ping pong club three years ago when he began teaching at the school. Conard had had a ping pong club in the past, but it had died off, and adminstrators were hoping Liu could revive it. Liu, who also runs Chinese calligraphy and Chinese chess clubs, was more than up for the challenge.

“Being a good teacher you deliver lessons, yes, but you should also get more kids involved after school. Not all are going to be athletes and this gives kids more outlets to explore their potential,” he said.

Conard’s ping pong club meets after school on Mondays and now has between 30 and 35 members. Liu said that attendance has been very consistent throughout the winter. “I think it’s one of the biggest and most active clubs at Conard,” he said.

Liu also teaches AP Chinese at Hall, and said that adminstrators there heard about the success of the Conard club and wanted him to start one there but he thought that would be too much. Hall Guidance Counselor Ryan Carlson stepped up, and Hall’s ping pong club was born. The Hall club meets after school every Thursday.

Liu and Carlson decided it would be fun to compete in a tournament, and following some weather-related cancellations, the inaugural tournament was held on Friday. Liu said that although the teams would compete, the tournament represented more than that. He said the theme would be based on a Chinese saying that means “Friendship first, competition second,” and it didn’t really matter who won.

The match between the two principals was a bit more intense, however. “Dan [Zittoun] was trash-talking Julio [Duarte], and well …” Liu said.

Duarte said in advance that Zittoun was definitely the more accomplished ping ponger, but Duarte held his own in the match. Zittoun won the best of three, 21-13 and 21-16. A “viscious spike” by Duarte in the second game cracked a ball, but Zittoun’s finesse prevailed.

Both clubs are open to boys and girls in all grade levels. Although only one girl participated in the tournament, she was the best player in the room. Liu said that Conard’s Leah Nguyen is the daughter of Kim Nguyen, one of the top ping pong players in Connecticut and the assistant coach of Conard’s team.

The overall tournament ended in a tie. The clubs also sold pizza and water to raise money for new paddles and balls.

The Hall ping pong club. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Hall ping pong club. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Bing Liu gives final instructions to players before the Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Bing Liu gives final instructions to players before the Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Adam Sontag, Hall's no. 1 player, takes on Leah Nguyen from Conard. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Adam Sontag, Hall’s no. 1 player, takes on Leah Nguyen from Conard. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Conard Principal Julio Duarte (left) shakes hands with Hall Principal Dan Zittoun before their match. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Conard Principal Julio Duarte (left) shakes hands with Hall Principal Dan Zittoun before their match. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nick Calabrese from Hall. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Nick Calabrese from Hall. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jason Trieu from Conard. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jason Trieu from Conard. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Leah Nguyen is Conard's top ping pong player. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Leah Nguyen is Conard’s top ping pong player. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Hall Principal Dan Zittoun. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Hall Principal Dan Zittoun. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Conard Principal Julio Duarte. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Conard Principal Julio Duarte. Conard vs. Hall inaugural ping pong tournament. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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