LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — As you watch players drenched in sweat, firing a ball back and forth, it's clear that the tournament at the Manor Table Tennis Club is not your run-of-the-mill "I've got winner" tournament at your family get-together or party.
"These players, a lot of them will train weekly. They participate in tournaments outside the state, even," described tournament director Chip Rutan. "One of our players tried out for the Olympics many years ago. He's an older gentleman now, but it's very high-level."
Over two days, the USA Table Tennis Pennsylvania State Championships serves up elite action on the table.
"It gives a lot of good competition for our players at the club because you're used to playing the same people, which is nice, but now we're bringing other people with different skill sets, and it's very multicultural," said Rutan. "If you look around, you see people from Asia, people from all over the country, and all over the world have come here."
Players from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Scranton made the trek to the Manor Table Tennis Club in Lancaster, which is home to the defending state champion, Jameson Bernard.
"The competition is strong," said Bernard. "There are new players here so right away I have to get used to their game. I'm walking around, seeing how they play."
The action is intense, both physically and mentally.
"The mental part is a big part of table tennis," added Bernard. "You can have all the skills. You can be athletic, but if you don't have the mental part, you're not going to go as far."
"You're trying to outthink your opponent a little bit," Rutan agreed. "You're trying to set up your shot, kind of like tennis, where you may not cover the same distance as tennis, but you're back and forth at a quicker pace than tennis."
If their game is not at this level, just watching can help a player realize what it takes to be among the best players.
"We've had a lot of people come by, recreational players, who want to see what it's like to see some of the better players compete, and they still enjoy watching and cheering on, if they're a club member, hopefully, against a non-club member," laughed Rutan.
If you think you have what it takes, the Manor Table Tennis Club gets together four days a week. More information can be found on their website.