JAMES IS TOP OF THE CLASS AT CUMBRIA SCHOOLS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Queen Katherine School pupil James Neal was crowned Cumbria Schools under 16s table tennis champion on Sunday after sweeping all before him at one of the most prestigious junior competitions in the calendar.
Neal, who plays his club table tennis for Dallam, cruised through his semi-final encounter against Ryan Cotton 11-7, 12-10, 11-6 to face Walney’s Ben O’Flynn who had beaten Cian Holliday with similar ease in the other semi-final. The final turned out to be an epic encounter of skill and determination, but looked early on as if it was to be a runaway success for O’Flynn who took the opening two sets 11-4 and 11-8. Neal demonstrated a cool head and dogged tenacity to tie the match after 11-5 and 11-9 wins in the third and fourth sets with only one more to play. The fifth set was fiercely contested, with the Queen Katherine star emerging victorious 11-9 to take the title.
Neal was also involved in the under 13s event, which proved to have a sting in the tail for the newly crowned under 16s champion. After easing through his semi-final match against Ben McDonald 11-7, 11-8, 11-5, Neal faced Ryan Cotton: a player who he had beaten in the under 16s event in straight sets. After taking the opening set 11-6 it looked like the Queen Katherine pupil was going to bag two titles in one day, but Cotton fought back to take the next three sets 11-6 11-8 11-7 and the under 13s crown.
Another player involved in the championships was Natland St Mark’s Archie Catnach in the under 11s event, who went out in the semi-final against Ben McDonald 11-8, 4-11. 7-11, 2-11.
Meanwhile in Division One of the Kendal and District League, Natland C’s survival hopes look all but over as they were beaten 7-3 by Burton A. Natland’s Andrea Jorkisch won two matches against Martin Wakelin and replacement George Pickering, while team mate Louisa Bevan edged out Wakelin 11-7 in a thrilling deciding set showdown. Burton’s path to victory was paved by Chris Knowles who won all three matches. The result leaves Natland thirteen points from safety.
Dallam A’s relegation was confirmed as they lost their seventeenth straight match 9-1 against their B team. Paul Gosling and Craig James won all three matches for Dallam B, although James was pushed to the brink of defeat by James Parkinson who just lost out 11-7 in a mesmerising fifth set. Dallam A’s hard work finally paid dividends when Parkinson beat John Fitzgerald 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-4.
In Division Two, Natland E’s relegation was also confirmed as they were mauled 8-2 by Dent. Natland- who have only accrued seven meagre points- got on the score sheet thanks to Ed Pickthall and Howard Pimblett’s victories against Ben Smith. Dent’s Steve Hawley and Wayne Gardner remained unbeaten in their fourth triumph of the season.
Occupying the other relegation place are Dallam C who beat second placed Crook B 6-4. Dallam’s Mike Jackson earned a hat-trick of victories, which included a marvellous 11-9 victory in the deciding set against the highly-rated Bob Bagot. Despite the win, Dallam are still six points adrift of safety but have three games in hand over nearest rivals Dent.