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Thayer Central eSports taking off as team enters second semester of competition

By Tommy Rezac

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HEBRON – Thayer Central is known for its rich athletic tradition and its strong activity participation. This year, students have a new way to compete against rival schools.

The schools’ eSports team is in its second semester of competition.

“(Students) came to me and were asking me about it,” Thayer Central visual arts teacher and eSports coach Ryan Waters said. “They thought it would be a cool thing to have at our school. It just so happened that I know (Jason Sullivan), who’s the superintendent at Elm Creek, and around the same time the kids talked to me last year, I ran into (Jason) and he said, ‘You’ll never believe it. We have an eSports team at our school!'”

Seniors Hadyn Blume and Malik Pfingsten are both going to Fort Scott (KS) Community College on an eSports scholarship. They had, for many years, wanted to play competitive E-sports, but hadn’t had an outlet to do so. That is, until last November, when the school board approved the creation of the team.

“We both always wanted to do eSports,” Pfingsten said. “We just didn’t have an outlet to do so, and we made it possible.”

Thayer Central had its first eSports competition of the fall season at Grand Island on Oct. 12 against eight other schools. Blume says the team finished 4th overall. Thayer Central’s team of 14 players will attempt to gather enough wins to qualify for semifinals in November before the state title on Nov. 23.

Thayer Central is a member of the Nebraska Schools eSports Association, along with a dozen other schools. NSESA started in 2017 as a non-profit. Since eSports are not sanctioned by the NSAA, and won’t be any time soon, NSESA operates independently, and schools can join at will.

“We have 13 schools participating currently,” Waters said. “But, it seems like every week, a new school pops up on our Discord messaging app. So, yeah. It’s spreading like wildfire.”

This semester, students are competing in Rocket League. “It’s basically soccer with cars,” Waters said. “The cars have rocket packs on the back of them, and you try and knock a ball into a big goal.”

They’re also playing Overwatch, which assigns players into two teams of six, with each player selecting from a roster of over 30 characters, known as “heroes.” Each has a unique style of play, and they’re divided into three general roles that fit their purpose. Players on a team work together to secure and defend control points on a map, or escort a payload across the map in a limited amount of time.

In the winter season, they’ll play League of Legends and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.

Thayer Central and Beatrice are the only two schools in southeast Nebraska to have an eSports team right now. Others have expressed interest, like Fairbury, but for the time being, other schools are waiting to see how things play out.

If Thayer Central is any indication, eSports could continue to grow rapidly. The Titans have grown from 11 participants last semester to 14 this semester.

“We wish there were more,” Pfingsten said, “but, we have a good amount right now to where we can all have a team for anything we want to do.”

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.

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