Submitted photo Nolan Weber, winner of Saturday’s Ping-Pong event, thanks runner-up Caleb Strickland, right, for the great competition. Strickland had beaten Weber earlier in the winner’s bracket, but Weber didn’t give up so easily.  He went on to win the losers’ bracket and eventually beat Strickland two tough matches in a row to earn the ‘Ping-Pong Champ’ sash. 
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Weber crowned ‘Ping Pong With a Purpose’ tourney champ

 Jackson High School senior Nolan Weber won the May 19 ping-pong fund-raiser in “a spectacular display of true grit and mad skills” (in the words of one spectator). His reputation preceding him, Weber was an early favorite in the tournament but was forced out of the winner’s bracket by Caleb Strickland, a junior at Cape Central and son of Mark and Lori Strickland.  Weber then had to finish off several worthy opponents in the losers’ bracket to challenge Strickland again, beating him two matches in a row for the top honors in the ‘Serious’ division.

Dean and Rachelle Weber watched in amazement as their son persevered with little to no rest between matches.  Rachelle said the tournament was a great opportunity for Nolan to meet other good ping-pong players and took down names and numbers for him.  She said they learned of the tournament from the poster at El Torero, Nolan’s favorite Jackson restaurant.

Other division winners were Cole Schreiner, finishing his sophomore year at Notre Dame High School, in the ‘Just-4-Fun’ category; Guthrie Hume, an eighth grader at Jackson Junior High in ‘Juniors;’  and Alice Man-sell, a fifth grader at North Elementary, who was unopposed in the ‘Pee-Wee’ bracket.

Sponsored by the C-4 youth group as part of a bible-buying effort, the fundraiser made nearly $280, according to tournament organizer Wyatt Mansell, a junior at Jackson High School.  Man-sell was pleased with the turnout and the level of competition, but he was extremely happy about the number of bibles this would allow them to purchase.

“At $3 per print version or $5 per audio version, that’s a lot of bibles!” smiled Mansell.  The group had responded to a plea for Spanish-translation bibles from missionaries Mike and Becky Kuelker who serve in the Nayarit, Mexico area.  C-4 set a goal of raising $800 for the cause, with the ping pong tournament being just one of the ideas for raising funds.  They have now exceeded their goal, according to one of the leaders.

As momentum for the event grew through his Facebook advertising, Mansell realized that two ping pong tables in a small church basement might not adequately accommodate all the players — much less the spectators.  Thus began the search for a new venue where multiple tables could be set up; the Lester and Ruth Maevers family offered the former Movie Gallery which is temporarily vacant.

“It was the perfect size and location for the tournament,” Mansell said.  “We had seven tables going pretty much non-stop, and two of our major competitors showed up just because they saw the huge banner in front of the building.”

C-4 would like to thank the Maevers family for donating their facility and everyone else who contributed in some way.

Jason Wray, fellow ping pong enthusiast and owner of Creative Edge, said he could not remember the local community ever having a ping pong tournament.  “What an awesome opportunity to have a blast but do something great like putting a bible in somebody’s hand hundreds of miles away!” concluded Wray.

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