By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chair
Khaliunaa Baassankhuu brings one of the longest names to the 2019 NCTTA championships. But the 19-year-old native of Mongolia also brings much talent as a table tennis player to this weekend's collegiate tournament in North Carolina.A University of Akron sociology major, Khaliunna finds time to excel on the Ohio school's table tennis team.
Making her first trip to Nationals, Khaliunna is the only resident of Mongolia enrolled at Akron. Her country of three million people and lots of rugged mountains sits between Russia and China. Mongolia isn't flat like Ohio. Her country lacks the heavy population of more than 300 million people in the USA.
"There are really different cultures,'' she says of life in America compared to her home in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar (with one million people). "But I love it so far.''
The Akron student has two years of table tennis experience, but keeps getting better.
She's seeded 38th among 40 women signed up for singles competition at the April 12-14 tournament in Greensboro.
It's a wonderful experience at Nationals so far, Khaliunna Baasankhuu said as practices wrapped up at the Greensboro Coliseum Thursday night.
On a full academic scholarship to the University of Akron, she's getting a solid education in the USA. The Zips player wants to use her sociology degree to return to Mongolia as a youth worker. (featured above)
While playing matches at the Greensboro Coliseum, Khaliunna will hear cheers of encouragement from her Akron Zips teammates.
Sharing the 7-hour drive from the Akron campus are players Mark Hendricks, 21, a mechanical engineering major from Toledo, and Noah Nerlich, 19, a biology major from Medina, Ohio. Both are signed up for men's singles at the NCTTA's huge tournament.
With a ten player roster, the Akron Zips compete in an NCTTA division with schools like Michigan State, Case Western and West Virginia. On their Akron campus, table tennis is a growing sport.
While the three Akron players are new to the Nationals, that's the case as well for many student-athletes at several other schools. The list of newcomers includes players from Santa Monica College in California, James Madison University in Virginia and Wright State University in Ohio.
Santa Monica's coed team is seeded 14th and Wright State ranks 14th as the lively games in Greensboro began Friday.
The 2019 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and Sports & Properties Inc. and Greensboro CVB and is one of the premier table tennis tournaments in North America featuring 6 events: Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles, and Men’s/Coed Teams, Women’s Teams. The event is sponsored by iSET, Double Happiness, SPI, Greensboro CVB, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis
Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 12th and continues through Sunday April 14th.
The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) is a non-profit organization established exclusively for promoting the sport of table tennis at the college level. As the national governing body for college table tennis in the United States and Canada, NCTTA organizes intercollegiate competition throughout North America. www.nctta.org
About USA Table Tennis
Headquartered in Colorado Springs, USATT is the national organizing body for table tennis in the United States, serving 9,000+ members and nearly 300 clubs. USATT sanctions 200+ events a year including the US Open and US Nationals. USATT is affiliated with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), as well as the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). www.usatt.org