A LOOK BACK AT NATIONALS
With Nationals now a wrap, the High School Esports League (HSEL) has completed its first full season in operation. Hosting tournaments in the fall, winter, holiday, and spring seasons, the HSEL allows teams across the United States to compete in various games in order to qualify for Nationals. This past year, the top teams from each Major were granted qualification to compete in Nationals for a chance to win upwards of $15,000 in scholarships for their team, a trophy to display at their school, and a bid to be in next year’s Nationals. This year’s Nationals included Overwatch, League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Rocket League, and Hearthstone.
In Overwatch, St. Louis Park High School (SLP HS) took first place receiving $15,000 in scholarships for their team. When asked about why they decided to join HSEL and specifically Nationals, Jeremy, also known as ToastyBatNip said that, “My team and I won the Fall season and we qualified, so we took it and it was the best experience I could have been apart of…Some players, like our healers, would have preferred to be DPS, but everyone was good at what they did and we all wanted to be a team.” Around game time, Maxwell, otherwise known as WarWalrus, said that the team was both “confident and nervous” leading up to it. When they were in the lead, he said, “we felt fantastic, and when we weren’t, it all became very tense.” Looking back on the regular season, Maxwell stated that it was enjoyable and that, “some games were more intense than others, but overall it was a great experience,” and lived by the code “I have to be home at ‘this time’ to play games.” He said the entire experience “made you feel like a pro gamer.”
In League of Legends (LoL), Sycamore High School (Aves eSports) took first place receive $12,500 in scholarships for their team. When asked how the HSEL club began at Sycamore High School, Kyle, better known as Levidia in League of Legends, said this: “We joined because we liked playing LoL a lot, and we watched worlds in 2016, so in the coming school year, sitting in choir class and playing LoL, we thought ‘why not make a team for the school?’ Our mid-laner, Aidan aka PrimeRhymeat9, was masters at the time, so we all thought we could have fun and learn more about the game from him. We decide to make the club 3 days before hand, and I don’t know how it happened, but we got everything ready in those 3 days, and I’m glad we all got to play and have this experience.” Kyle added that since he was going to play LoL in college, “Getting practice in this environment helped me out a lot.” As the conversation shifted as to their thoughts on how the team’s experience was, Mark, known as OmgitsHero, said this: “I know there are times when we’ve made a mistake or done something wrong, but that’s alright since as a team we know we can come back later and fix anything that was done wrong in the game.Winning is great sure, but even if we lose, it doesn’t matter because the friends made throughout the tournaments within my own team and other teams cannot be matched.” This obviously true when learning that Aidan, The Aves Esports mid-laner, was in North Dakota during the grand finals for a tournament. Kyle spoke about how he “had his team reschedule their games so he could play in Nationals with us,” something that truly shows the bond this team has created. He also adds that while it was not an issue, there were a few days that people on the team had to reschedule work days in order to play. Kyle then goes on to speak about how his family were very supportive of him competing in Nationals because “they realized it was more than me sitting down and playing games.” He then continues that his mom, not knowing how long LoL games can take, “would always yell down stairs if we won yet. I actually gave her the livestream link for her to watch the [Grand Final] game and she did, and its feels really great knowing that my mother supports me and has a passion with me in this.” Looking back on their entire season with HSEL, Mark reminisced how “It was a great experience,” and how they “fought against some really, really good teams, making the experience better.” When asked about their future, Kyle chimed in and said that he would be playing LoL for Miami University in Oxford and is excited to be mentored by the team since they are all masters at the game. He then adds that “with the prize money form Nationals, I will not have to go into debt with college loans. I never thought going into freshman year that I would not have to pay for college because I play competitive LoL.”
Competing is not only about winning, it is about the experience gained through making friends, becoming more skillful in the game and on a team, and the drive it sets in everyone to continue to do better for themselves and others. The HSEL strives to make this a reality for anyone wishing and willing to participate. With thousands of schools signed up throughout The United States, what is stopping you from getting your school to join the HSEL? Regardless of the answer, they will do what they can to help you achieve what you want.
By Lucas Profenno