By Billy Chundak

For six weeks beginning in late June, our San Diego studio’s greatest table tennis players put their talents on display at crit-stadium, an open meeting space that houses a regulation table at the heart of the studio. Players compete for the right to have their name engraved on a gold trophy fondly known as the Causey Cup. More than that, players in the San Diego studio compete for a spot in HMC history and for the admiration of their peers. For those few weeks leading up to the tournament, when practice becomes more frequent and the rhythmic sounds of volleyed ping pong balls become a melodic lunchtime tune, every player is a potential champion. During the infrequent moments of reverie a competitor finds in a day, winning is a constant topic; however, separating all competitors from their dreams and reality is a proverbial waif like bridge whose only means of crossing is excellence.

Shortly after commissioners had announced the open registration for the 2011 Battle of the Paddle tournament, the field was filled. Architects, admins, and interns, twenty in total, put their names on the line for a chance at winning the prestigious title of tournament champion. It was quickly observed that this year’s brackets were laden with talent and fat with competitors each with a true chance of winning. Though many enthusiasts had favorites in the tournament, no clear front runner would ever appear in 2011. Even as this ballyhooed tale unwound, the chips didn’t quite fall where many had foreseen. Top competitors were eliminated early-on and underdogs began to infiltrate the later reaches of the brackets.

In what has been hailed as the greatest HMC table tennis match every played or attended, Ryan Nearman seized the prestigious gold trophy from Andrea Robinette for his first Battle of the Paddle victory. In the awe-inspiring capacity of crit-stadium, cameras flashed and cheers resonated through the studio, Nearman had upset last year’s runner up and one of the tournament favorites. Some slumped to their seats in disbelief, but all had just witnessed a grueling five-game match with all the elements that make for a great drama: emotion, suspense, struggle, and triumph. Put it in the books, history was made here in San Diego.