Ariel Hsing, the 16-year-old table tennis phenom, put on another amazing performance at the USTTA Nationals.
Last year, the California girl pulled out a victory in the decisive seventh game over close friend Lily Zhang, another young California teenager, to win the women's singles championship for the first time.
That was in Las Vegas. On Saturday, the two training partners met again for the championship, and again it was Hsing repeating as the champion — this time in a more-convincing manner, 11-5, 8-11, 12-10, 11-9 and 11-7 in the best-of-seven final at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.
That wasn't all Hsing won. She teamed with Tim Wang, the defending men's singles champion, to win the mixed doubles and took the 21-and-under women's singles. She also teamed with Judy Hugh of California to take second place in the women's doubles.
Wang, a 20-year-old Texan, appeared on his way to repeating as the men's singles champion but lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Peter Li of Maryland. Wang won the first three games against Li but lost the next four, including a 16-14 thriller in the final game.
After Wang went ahead 3-0 in games, "everyone, including me, thought it was over," said Dean Johnson, head of the local organizing committee for the City of Virginia Beach tournament. "After Li won the fourth game, momentum seemed to take a dramatic shift."
Li, last year's runner-up, had no problems in the title match. He beat Han Xiao of Maryland in four straight games.
Dan Barrett of Virginia Beach, whose rating had dropped from 1,968 to 1,539 this year, won two titles in the five-day event. He beat Stephen Alfred of California 11-4, 11-2 and 11-8 for the U1700 championship and teamed with David Benson of Virginia Beach for the U3,700 doubles crown.
William Wickline of the Tidewater Table Tennis Club and Tao Li of Richmond also made a strong showing. Wickline finished second in the U2,700 doubles with Thomas Paul and made it to the semifinals of the U1,600 singles before losing to eventual champion Felix Gao of California.
Li, the top-ranked female player in the state, reached the semifinals of the U2,300 singles before losing to eventual champion Karlos Ko of Georgia, 11-9, 11-13, 11-4, 10-12, 9-11.
In a battle of Virginia residents, Stefan Keip of the Tidewater TTC defeated Viktor Bakhchyvanzhy of Virginia Beach for the unrated singles title, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9.
This was the first year Virginia Beach had hosted the prestigious tournament, which included 553 entries.
"By and large, the event was a huge success," Johnson said. "We could have used another 150-200 entries. I believe, with what we learned, if we have the event here for another year, we'll get closer to the 700 entries we need to make it a total success."
On Thursday, Virginia Beach made another bid to host the tournament next year but the USTTA Board of Directors won't make its decision until it meets in January.
Dan Seemiller of Indiana, holder of many national titles in his 25-year career and winner this time in the over-40 singles, told Johnson it was "one of the best U.S. Nationals he's ever attended and that he would return if it was played here again."
At the beginning, it didn't look like it was going to be Zach Stepp's day in the Peninsula High School Bowling League on Dec. 8 at the AMF York Lanes.
The Menchville High School student opened with a 160 — 19 pins under his average — in the first of two head-to-head matches. But Stepp started finding his mark in the next game with a 188 and then made it his day by putting his name in the league's record book. He became the first youngster to bowl a 300 game in the league's scratch division.
Stepp, only 14, also became the second-youngest Peninsula bowler to roll a perfect game. Josh Garner, at 13, holds that honor — bowling his gem at Century Lanes in 2004.
Only one other bowler, Ricky Hurley of York High School, had been able to shoot a 300 in the high school league's 24 years of operation. His 300 came in the club/handicap division
Stepp's feat surprised longtime league coordinator Mary Pancoast, especially since he had never bowled a 300 and this was his first year competing in the league.
His composure especially impressed her.
"He was surprisingly calm and cool," she said. "The last shot he threw (in the 300) was buried, a no-doubt shot. As a matter of fact, the last two he threw in the 10th were like that."
That brought a loud roar of cheering from everyone who had stopped bowling to watch his drama-filled final shots.
In his final game of the day, there was no let-up. Stepp began it with four more strikes and finished with a 253.
Entries are now being taken for the 13th annual Millennium Golf Tournament Jan. 7-8 at the Golden Horseshoe in Williamsburg.
The popular 36-hole event includes a two-person captain's choice the first day on the Green Course and a better-ball format the second day on the Gold Course. Both will have shotgun starts at 10 a.m.
Entry fee is $410 per team. Deadline is Jan. 2. For more information or a registration form, call 220-7696.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun