It’s the last territorial championship of the calendar year and it’s one which provided perhaps one of the most unlikeliest of results.
The NWT Table Tennis Championships were held at Weledeh and St. Pat’s Gymnasiums on Dec. 15 and 16 and Zachary Mathison of Weledeh Catholic School made sure people remembered that it doesn’t matter how old you are but rather only that you can play the game.
And he did just that as he won the Grade 8 boys singles title. Not a big deal until you realize that Mathison is only in Grade 3.
Mathison said it was a challenge but nothing he couldn’t handle.
“I wasn’t really nervous,” he said. “The kids were just bigger, that’s all.”
They were a bit bigger this time because the eight-year-old won the Grade 6 boys title last year as a Grade 2 student but he sort of thought he could pull it off again this year.
“I had some easy matches, some hard matches,” he said.
Just for a challenge, Mathison decided to enter the high school event to play doubles with his older brother, Christopher, who goes to St. Pat’s, and they won that.
“The doubles was a bit harder,” said the younger Mathison. “They hit a bit harder but I wasn’t nervous at all.”
Christopher Mathison went on to win the Grade 9-12 boys singles in the high school division to complete the family sweep, which helped St. Pat’s win the overall banner in that category.
While Mathison was busy dominating Grade 8 students as an eight-year-old, there were other divisions up for grabs. St. Joe’s ended up winning the overall championship in the junior division thanks in large part to Alex Ramsey, Raine Mingo and Gracie Brennan winning the Grade 6 boys and girls and Grade 7 girls singles titles respectively. Mingo and Ramsey teamed up to capture the Grade 6 doubles title, which helped the school lock up the banner in their first year competing as a team.
The overall banners were decided based on an aggregate system where the total number of points earned by a school through its results was divided up by the number of athletes a school brought to produce an average score.
Cory Taylor was the school’s coach and said it was a pretty good debut for the Huskies.
“Eugene (Roach, phys-ed teacher) and I ran table tennis as part of the after-school program and we used that as our practice,” he said. “We had some kids picking up racquets for the first time and some who obviously knew what they were doing and so they were challenging Eugene and I for matches.”
Going into the tournament, Taylor admitted he had expectations for some of the players but one look at the sea of blue that awaited the team made him do a double-take at first.
“William McDonald had a big team, about 60 kids, and we only had 15,” he said. “It worked out in our favour and I guess the precedent has been set, so to speak.”
A total of 135 players played across 16 tables over the course of the weekend, something which was a sight to see for Thorsten Gohl, Table Tennis North’s executive director.
He said it was unreal to see so many players.
“You don’t think about what 135 players looks like when you’re scheduling it all but when you see everyone playing, it’s such a thrill,” he said.
Taylor agreed with that sentiment.
“I think it’s only going to get bigger from here,” he said. “Thorsten and Ulli (Nolting) did a great job organizing it.”
FACT FILE – Tournament champions
Grade 6 boys – Alex Ramsey, St. Joe’s
Grade 6 girls – Raine Mingo, St. Joe’s
Grade 7 boys – Nikhilesh Gohil, William McDonald
Grade 7 girls – Gracie Brennan, St. Joe’s
Grade 8 boys – Zachary Mathison, Weledeh
Grade 8 girls – Katherine Smallwood, William McDonald
Grade 6 – Alex Ramsey and Raine Mingo, St. Joe’s
Grade 7 – Nikhilesh Gohil and Lennox Mutford, William McDonald
Grade 8 – Colton Robertson and Luke Kotaska, William McDonald
Overall banner – St. Joe’s
Grade 9-12 boys – Christopher Mathison, St. Pat’s
Grade 9-12 girls – Shannen Bonnetrouge, Fort Providence
Christopher and Zachary Mathison
Overall banner – St. Pat’s
source: NWT School Sports