Esports Overwatch team wins national championship

The esports fall season team sent the Overwatch one team won  the national championships on Dec. 16. 

In it’s very first fall season of competition at Cedar Falls, the newly created Overwatch one team, who are part of the high school’s esports team, won the national championship on Dec. 16. The six members also each received a $1,000 college scholarship. The members of this team as well as other top players around the country are also invited to compete in a summer national invitational. 

Overwatch is a  team-based multiplayer first-person shooter video game. The winning Overwatch team included senior Ben Meinders, Easton Sckerl, Nathan Raubs, David Wilson, team captain Alex Shepard and freshman Keegan Hussey.  

Esports launched last year at the high school for students in grades nine through 12. First consisting of around 35 members, this year in the fall season there were 65 members and coach Brian Unruh said he hopes for the number to grow for the upcoming winter and spring seasons.

“The goal is to keep growing and providing the opportunity. It sounds like there was some kids that maybe didn’t hear about it or wanted to get involved and didn’t in time,” Unruh said. 

Esports is very similar to other mainstream sports in regards to competing. The teams or individuals are competing against others to win. Like volleyball, the game goes to the team who wins the best out of five during the regular-season and best out of seven during the post-season. 

However, this sport is also different than most mainstream sports. Instead of a court, players are interacting with other teams or individuals online. In competitions different teams are competing at once, but playing different video games. This past fall season, there were six options: Overwatch, Fortnite, Smash Brothers, Minecraft, Rocket League and Rainbow Siege.   

The players in the Ambush esports team are mostly self-lead. “The Overwatch team that did really well and won the overall championship, we just provided them what they needed. They organized themselves. They kind of had a core of players, so they kind of figured out who was a good fit and practiced and played and deserve most of the credit,” Unruh said. 

This past fall season, all of the competing and practicing occured in the backroom of iTech on University Avenue. 

The state of Iowa doesn’t have a sanctioned esports league of its own, so in order to participate, Cedar Falls joined the High School Esports League (HSEL). The HSEL is made up of teams from all over the United States and Canada. 

The league is split into three time zones: central, eastern and western/pacific time zone. Iowa is in the central time zone region and plays eight weeks within this region until the playoffs where all regions are combined. 

To go to the playoffs, teams must finish within the top five teams during their regular season. 

Unruh said this can be a spectator sport. “We’ve had a couple of people in the spring. We don’t discourage people from coming in. It’s just something we haven’t necessarily promoted yet. In the future we want to provide more streaming opportunities so you can watch it online or watch it from home, or whatever,” he said. 

Sckerl said when the Overwatch one team heard they won they were overjoyed. “Once we won, our team waK estatic. We jumped up, yelled, high fives, the whole nine yards. We quickly grabbed the flag seen in our picture.” 

Meinders said he joined the team because of his experience with Overwatch and as a fun activity outside of school. 

Sckerl said he wanted to test his skills in the video game arena. “A bunch of our friends who have been playing video games for a while saw that it was a thing and thought it would be fun to compete at a higher level together as one unit.” 

Meinders also said this sport is beneficial if one doesn’t want to commit a lot of time. “It’s just doing what you normally do for an hour or two with your teammates,” he said. Most times the teams are just practicing once or twice a week. 

Esports goes all year round, with the major seasons in the fall and spring, but open seasons also compete in the winter and summer. 

Unruh said information about the upcoming winter season will be posted within the upcoming week. Look to Schoology for a survey on interest in esports, emails from Unruh and announcements over the intercom. 

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