TABLE tennis players have smashed their way to success cementing their reputation for being among the best in the country.
Students from Longfield Academy of Sport, Darlington, competed in the English Schools Table Tennis Association Butterfly School Team Championships, held at Hinckley in Leicestershire.
The U13s team comprising, Callum McRae, Matthew Pearson, Luca Pontone and Thomas Rayner, all 12, had qualified after playing a number of rounds in the Zone Finals in Blackburn and Billingham earlier this year.
In the nationals, they were part of a close-run tournament which pitted the top four teams in the country, Longfield eventually being placed third overall.
Longfield’s first match against the favourites, The London Academy School, came down to the last match, which ended in a 4-4 draw. The London Academy team regularly has players competing in national ranking tournaments.
Their second game was against Tanbridge House School from Horsham, which featured Charlie Graham Adams, who is currently ranked number 19 in England at U13 level.
The Tanbridge team took an early lead going three games to one up until Longfield’s number one player, Thomas Rayner, who recently became National Cup Champion of England at U12 level, beat Charlie, bringing Longfield back into the match.
A number of very close games finally saw Tanbridge House take the match 5-3.
The final match of the final was against St Mary’s School, Hull, with Longfield taking the win.
Luca, who was inspired to play by his granddad Guilo Pontone, said: “It was an incredible experience, particularly as we were playing in front of England’s No1 women’s player Kelly Sibley, so we really upped our game.
“We have a really strong team and we all get on great so next year we plan to stay together but enter U16 competitions.”
PE teacher Trevor Tearney said: “The boys were fantastic and fought for every point. The parents were also incredible in the level of support they offered the children.”
Team coach Chris Rayner added: “The competition brings together the best teams in the country with many players competing in national ranking tournaments so it was a strong result for Longfield.”