The fifth annual Northfield table tennis tournament attracted some of the best players in the state Saturday at Northfield Middle School.

The 70-player field included a handful of players with high ratings including the state champion.

The tournament has been well received each year because of how its run and the welcome players get when they play. It attracts people from the metro, Mankato and Rochester among other locations in the state.

“We have a very good mix of medium and high-level players,” tournament organizer Don Diehl said. “As a result of the tournament we’re capturing some of the highest rated players in the state of Minnesota.”

The tournament brings in a diverse pool of players from different ethnic backgrounds and ages. The age range at the tournament went from 8 to 85, Diehl said. Wei Qi won the open singles title and teamed with Michael Tran to win open doubles. Joel Lidstrom won the 1,400-and-under singles title and Cherry Wang won the 1,000-and-under title. The 2,400-and-under doubles title went to Lidstrom and Norm Hopkins. Rex Harris won the Hardbat singles title.

It’s an unsanctioned tournament, which means wins or losses do not count toward a player’s rating. It gives players an opportunity to experience high-level competition to stay sharp and not have a match impact their rating.

“You get a chance to focus and really feel the tension of competition without the added burden of, ‘Well, if I lose this I’m going to be down 50 rating points,’” tournament player David Elliott said. “It’s still a good, structured event. You play people at different levels.”

The tournament holds a unique appeal among players for that very reason.

“It’s amazing considering this is an unsanctioned tournament,” said Chi Lam, who traveled from Rochester to play in the event. “This is almost unheard of. Not that many people come to a non-sanctioned tournament.”

Many of the players who came Saturday play in the state tournament. For Lam, who holds a rating above 1900, which is a high rating among amateur players, the tournament also serves as an opportunity to connect with players he frequently sees at other tournaments minus the stress of a sanctioned tournament.

“It’s almost as big as a state tournament,” Lam said. “Almost every Minnesota player I know is here.”

Matchups included a young boy who could barely see over the table against a much older man. The older player did not take his opponent lightly, either.

Players circle the date of the tournament on their calendars well in advance. The tournament routinely fills up two to three weeks before the event date, Diehl said.

Players also praised the hospitality event organizers display.

“Don (Diehl) puts on a great tournament,” Elliott said. “They take great care of us. You get a lot of value and you see a lot of good players. It’s everything you could want out of a table tennis tournament.”

Nick Gerhardt is the Northfield News’ sports editor. You can reach him at 645-1111. Follow him on Twitter @NorthfieldNick.

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