Sunday, March 21, 2004

XU grad finds place at the table

Good Sports

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Nick Snider grew up playing table tennis in his parents' basement. If he'd known he would someday compete in the table tennis Olympic Trials, he would have paid more attention.

Had better discipline.

And learned to shop for the right kind of shoes.

"It took a long time to find a shoe that would last," Snider said. "You pivot so quickly in table tennis that you go through shoes a lot, and I would ruin a pair in about two months."

He finally found a brand that last six months. He bought four pair.

Snider, a 24-year-old Sycamore graduate and Xavier alum, needs them for the 18-odd tournaments he competes in each year. USA Table Tennis ranks Snider seventh in Ohio among players of all ages and genders, and he's No. 1 in Greater Cincinnati.

His only regret is not being serious about the sport sooner. Snider chanced upon a table tennis exhibition at a Xavier dining hall in 1998 and soon became involved in the Cincinnati Table Tennis Club - which plays at Schmidt Fieldhouse on Xavier's campus - and the Northern Kentucky Table Tennis Club at the Campbell County YMCA.

"(Snider) has consistently improved over the last two years," said Greg Thompson, the Northern Kentucky Club's tournament director, webmaster, treasurer and co-founder. "He was good then, so the fact that he's improved makes him that much better."

Becoming a playmaker on the pro circuit would require Snider to move to the deep table-tennis pockets of the country like Maryland or California. He likes his current digs and doesn't plan to move; instead, he's focusing on getting good enough here for the Olympic Trials.

"I never really thought I'd ever do something like this," said Snider, who gets coaching tips from Olympic coach Dan Seemiller.

Snider and his doubles partner, Samson Dubina, 19, are in Washington D.C. this weekend competing for a doubles berth. Though they don't have a chance to practice together much - Samson lives in Canton - they're one of eight teams invited to the U.S. Trials.

The top three teams from the U.S. and the top three teams from Canada will try out again for two doubles spots in the Athens games. Snider thinks the team's chances are slim, but that's OK. He's not planning any radical moves or changes to his game, anyway.

To stay in tip-top table tennis shape, Snider devotes most of his workout prep time to jumping rope. Footwork is one of the most crucial elements of the sport, hence the importance of a good pair of shoes. Beyond that, Snider said the mental game is the most grueling.

Alertness is key because at the highest level balls whiz across the table at speeds up to 100 mph. Snider estimated the average to be 50 to 60 mph.

The unusual hobby drew his family's skepticism at first. Now that he's been involved in the game for six years, Snider said his family has finally come around.

"At first they were like 'How long are you really going to play?' I told them I didn't know, but I loved it," Snider said. "I wanted to see how good I can get."

For more information on local table tennis, visit the Northern Kentucky club's Web site at or the Cincinnati club's at

Quintin Coppola, Megan Smith/Amelia

These two-sport athletes took the school's new strength and conditioning program all the way to the March 13 state championships at Kenton High School in Kenton, Ohio. Smith, a junior who plays tennis and runs track, is the Ohio state high school power-lifting champion in the girls' 115-pound weight class. She defeated 17 competitors and won individual honors in the squat and dead lift. Coppola, a junior who plays football and runs track, was fourth overall in the boys' 210-pound division. He competed against 40 others for the honor.

"They both did excellent, but I'm not surprised," said Casey Thomas, Amelia physical education teacher and strength and conditioning coordinator. "They gave up their vacations and holidays to train. They're the best two students I've had in 10 years." Both excel in the classroom, too. Smith has a 4.15 GPA, and Coppola's is 3.72.

Matthew Hamill/Loveland

The 1995 Loveland graduate was inducted into the NCAA Division III Wrestling Hall of Fame March 4 in Dubuque, Iowa. The three-time national champion wrestled for Purdue and the Rochester Institute of Technology. Hamill, who is deaf, spent the weekend trying out for the United States Deaf Olympic Team at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. He is scheduled to compete in the Northeast Regional Freestyle Olympic Team qualifiers April 16-18 in Brockport, N.Y. In 1997, Hamill competed on the U.S. Deaf Olympic Team at the World Games for the Deaf in Copenhagen, Denmark, and became the first U.S. wrestler to win gold medals in freestyle and Greco Roman competition in the games.

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