Online gaming team at school fills a need

Some of the members of the Rangely High School online gaming team are pictured here (left to right) Elizabeth McCann, Caleb Noel, Abigail Shriver, Jayde Trumbley, Nickolaus Miers, Brennan Noyes, Jayleen Kenney, Breezy Davis, Eric Legere and Brady Bertoch. This fall the team competed with other teams from Montrose, Ridgeway and Denver. Matt Scoggins photo

RANGELY | Rangely High School has recently become one of only a handful of school across the state to offer the latest in team sports, online gaming.
The gaming team, coached by Bo Bertoch, is in its second year of competition in Rangely. The team is made up of five students who participate individually in any combination of the three available games: Heroes of the Storm, Starcraft II or Hearthstone. The competitions take place online with each team participating from their own school. While the competition season is in the fall, the team continues to meet and practice twice a week throughout the school year.
Rangely Schools Superintendent Matt Scoggins, who introduced the idea of the gaming team, believes it fills an important need for students. “Around 70 percent of all kids play online games. It’s a good niche for kids that want to be involved but hadn’t found anywhere to engage,” he said. Scoggins watched one of the competitions and was impressed. “It’s full of strategy and teamwork.”
Team member and 11th-grader Caleb Noel has been on the team since its inception. He considers the practices and competitions something to look forward to each week. “It’s just really fun to play competitively at something that you would’ve been doing anyway,” he said.
The competitions are popular, sometimes drawing dozens of student spectators and while only five students may compete in the competitions many more students show up to practice alongside the team. The 2016 team consisted of Caleb Noel, Meikka Peck, Lizzie McCann, Eric Legere and Abigail Shriver.
Each of the three real time games played offers its own unique challenges. Heroes of the Storm is a tower defense game that pits one team against the other in a tug of war style game play. Starcraft II is a strategy game that has a player manage several units to gather resources, build, and defeat their opposition and Hearthstone is a collectible card game. Competitors are able to choose which of the three games they will compete in.
The gaming doesn’t stop at the high school level. Many colleges are now carrying the teams with some even offering scholarships. There are also professional level gamers. “These sports are becoming a big thing now,” said Noel. “Professional gamers can win a lot of money.”
Noel’s mother, Jennifer Noel, was skeptical at first. “I didn’t see how that could be a legitimate school team,” she said. “But the kids really enjoy it. It’s a great way for them to socialize with their friends while getting to be competitive.”
While Rangely was one of the early adopters of the new competition Scoggins says many other schools are joining in. This fall the team competed with schools from Ridgeway, Montrose and Denver. Scoggins expects the competitions and number of teams to continue to grow as gaming becomes more popularly accepted.