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The Road to Success

STA’s Mario Kart ESports team has earned many victories this season and is headed on the road to league victory.
Senior Adelina Lopez races during a varsity Mario Kart match. photo courtesy of Sage Garretson.

About three times a week, a group of STA students gathers to practice and compete in race car driving. They race against teams from all over the continent and are on their way to making it to the playoffs this year, all without breaking a sweat. However, instead of hopping out of a car at the end of the race, they just unplug their Nintendo Switches.

ESports is a fairly new activity at STA, and the highly awarded Mario Kart team was established only one year ago. Although this sport is atypical, senior Adelina Lopez believes that it is just what STA needed.

“It’s meant to give people that would normally not be participating in a sport the benefits of being in a sport,” Lopez said. “You are able to get that teamwork aspect and the benefits of meeting other people outside of your own school, but through the internet and through not sweating as much.”

The ESports teams are coached by Sage Garretson and Lillia Nelson. Garretson shared his definition of the game.

“ESports is basically taking a video game that we already play and enjoy and adding a competitive element to it,” Garretson said.

The Mario Kart team is made up of JV and varsity levels that have four players on each team. Even though they are participating in an online activity, the team still has vital pre-game warm ups.

“For competition days, we have everyone run through a series of warm-ups with their hands, shoulders, neck and back so that way we don’t create a systemic problem of hunchbacks and all together bad form,” Garretson said. “Once they have warmed up physically then they practice and play some games with each other.”

Although the members of the teams race against each other on competition days, Lopez explains that they are always looking out for each other and working as a team.

“We’re all very competitive but it more focuses on being one big unit rather than everyone just being separate,” Lopez said. “We’re all racing against each other, but no matter what, we’re always communicating and making sure everybody knows what is happening.”

The gameplay consists of 4v4 races, and the winner is determined by the best of three games, each game being the best of six races. Garretson shared that with so many chances to change the outcome of the match, the games are always very interesting.

“It makes for a good spectating sport, so that’s why I make sure we always livestream, because it’s so entertaining,” Garretson said.

This year, the varsity team prequalified for the league playoffs, which means that they are ranked in the top 10 out of the 64 teams in the Midwest division that ranges from Canada all the way to Texas. Lopez credits the success of the team to every member. They believe that every member of the team is an important component of what is going to lead them to the playoffs this year.

“Everybody is so talented,” Lopez said. “It’s weird to say that–everybody is so talented at playing video games–but everybody knows everything and everybody pulls their own weight. There isn’t one straggler that gives only 50%;everybody gives 110% all the time.”

Garretson believes that along with giving immense amounts of effort, the team members have formed a close-knit bond with each other.

“I really take pride in making sure that we’re very inclusive and we make sure everyone feels like they belong, not just playing video games but here at the school,” Garretson said.

With such a unique sport, there are potential issues that do not pertain to typical athletics. Lopez shared that the possibility of technology not working is always a big stressor on competition days.

“Everything is technically based, so if one thing goes out, everything goes out,” Lopez said.

Technology is a vital part of the team’s competitions because members cannot connect with their opponent without it. Lopez explained that one of her favorite parts of the sport is that they are able to race against teams from across the continent.

“We’ve played people from all over,” Lopez said. “We’ve played people in Mexico, we’ve played people in Canada, you play people from everywhere and it’s so cool because you get to build that unique community.”

Garretson described the friendships that have formed between STA’s players and their opponents due to the technological nature of the game.

“To compete against [someone] you have to add them as a friend so there have been times where our players have made friendships with other people across the central time zone from just playing games,” Garretson said.

Lopez believes that any student who is looking for a fun activity should join ESports, and shared that students do not need any experience to play because current team members are happy to help.

“We’re all more than happy to give pointers and coach as well,” Lopez said. “Our whole entire group has actually made a manual full of a dictionary of all sorts of different terms for people that come after we’re all gone. Everybody is more than happy to bring in people that have never played.”

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