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North London Schools Championships 2018-19
By Peter Bayman

Table Tennis England has recently taken over the running of the English Schools Table Tennis Association and its associated national competitions.  Ellenborough TTC was approached by TTE to host and run the North London Schools Championships, which are competitions in their own right but also qualifiers for zone, regional and national finals.

Coldfall Primary

In November 2018 we hosted the North London Schools Team Championships, which were attended by 146 players from sixteen schools across Enfield, Haringey, Barnet and Waltham Forest.  There were eight events, four age groups for Girls and the same for Boys.  Winners in the Girls events were Whitings Hill Primary (Barnet) in the Under 11, JCOSS (Barnet) in the Under 13 and the Under 16 and Kingsmead School (Enfield) in the Under 19.

In the Boys events there was some very strong competition and close matches.  In the Under 11s, the two outstanding teams of the five entered were Coldfall Primary from Muswell Hill (Haringey) and Holland House School from Barnet.  These teams beat all their other opponents either 7-1 or 8-0 so the championship depended upon their match against one another, which Coldfall won when they reached a score of 5 sets to 2.  These two teams progressed to the Zone Finals at the University Of East London, where they overcame all opposition from the other counties in the zone to again finish first and second, with Coldfall again coming out on top.

Holland House School

In the Boys Under 13 event there were nine teams competing but the two outstanding teams who came though to the final were Mill Hill School (Barnet) and Alexandra Park School (Haringey).  In the Final, neither team was ever more than one set ahead and the final result was a 4-4 draw.  To decide the winners, it then went to count-back on games won and lost but these were also equal.  A very tense wait was necessary, as it then went to a count-back on individual points won and lost, resulting in a victory to Alexandra Park School by 252 points to 228, a margin of just 24 points spread over about 20 games!. 

Alexandra Park left and Mill Hill right

The Boys Under 16 event originally had 12 entries but some teams withdrew prior to the event for a variety of reasons.  After the group stages, the semi-finals were between Mill Hill School (Barnet) and Broomfield School (Enfield), which Mill Hill won 6-0, and between JCOSS (Barnet) and Octagon AP Academy (Haringey), which JCOSS won 5-1.  This produced an interesting final, as Mill Hill and JCOSS had already met in the group stages and had drawn 4-4.  It was again a very close match but Ben Barnett of Mill Hill just manage d to reverse his earlier defeat against Izzy Fishman of JCOSS to give Mill Hill School the win by 5 sets to 3.

The Boys Under 19 had just 3 teams competing so they played a round-robin competition in which Lammas School (Waltham Forest) and Mill Hill School (Barnet) both defeated Sir George Monoux Academy (Waltham Forest) but Mill Hill succeeded in beating Lammas School by 6 sets to 2 to take the title.

The North London Schools Individual Championships were played at Ellenborough over two days in late January and early February 2019, with winners qualifying to go direct to the national Finals in Wolverhampton on the 27th April as well as qualifying for the Zone finals at University of East London on the 6th April.  There were 54 entries in total, some of the players from the team events unfortunately being injured and others having found the standard of competition in the team event a bit too high for them.  There were no entries in the Girls Under 11 category but the other events provided some very tough competition and some great matches.  In the Boys Under 11, Max Radiven of Holland House School (Barnet) was the champion, beating another Holland house player, Saaj Malde, in the final after two of the games going to 10 all.  In the Boys Under 13 the highly ranked Joe Hunter of Alexandra Park School (Haringey) was the champion, beating runner-up Rayan Ansari of Norlington School (Waltham Forest) fairly comfortably in the final.

In the girls events there was a little confusion, with some girls entering in higher age-groups than their own for tactical reasons or to avoid playing against their team mates but then qualifying in their natural age-group due to an absence of entries or drop-outs due to injury.

LtoR Sofia-Ellen Parvanov, Natalia Ianau
and Rihanna Omorakaof

The eventual qualifier in the girls Under 13 category was therefore Sofia-Ellen Parvanov of London Academy (Barnet) and Rihanna Omoraka, also of London Academy, was runner-up.

In the Boys Under 16 event, Mihnea Dascalu of London Academy (LA for short) was the winner, after a close five game final against runner up Daniel Oluwamyowa, also of LA (see picture below).  More clean sweeps for LA followed, with 15 year old Natalia Ianau of LA beating 11 year old Sofia-Ellen Parvanov of LA to win the Girls Under 16 event before Sofia-Ellen was then awarded a finals qualifying place in the Under 13 category. 

Mihnea Dascalu and Daniel Oluwamyowa

The Boys Under 19 event again featured players competing above their natural category, due to the strength in depth of the LA under 16s.  This resulted in Robert Ionascu of LA, aged 13, winning the event with Sajad Ali, also aged 13, finishing as runner-up after a superb final which Robert won by just 13-11 in the fifth game. 

In the Girls Under 19 event, Tiana Dennison of Highams Park School (Waltham Forest) was the winner by default, due to an injury to one opponent and a no-show from another but she is strong enough to thoroughly deserve her place at the National Finals and Zone Finals anyway!  It is hoped that her injured opponent, Patricia Ianau of LA, may be fit to be given a place at these events too, as two competitors are allowed through in the Girls Under 19’s due to a lack of players in that age group.

Sajad left and Robert right

TTE were very pleased with our running of the Championships at Ellenborough and we may have also picked up a few new junior members for our coaching classes from amongst the competitors, plus a new adult member or two from amongst the parents!

What became clear during these championships was the gulf that exists in playing standard between those schools with their own expert coaching scheme or whose pupils attend a club coaching scheme and those who rely upon very dedicated but less qualified and experienced coaches from within their regular PE staff.  This is something that we should be seeking to address in order to give all these keen and talented young players the opportunity to achieve their full potential in our sport.

All photographs by Peter and Joan Bayman

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