- Associated Press - Saturday, October 17, 2015

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) - Lauren Blenn, president of the University of Idaho Quidditch team, the Moscow Manticores, has a simple response as to why people like her are so drawn to the sport.

“Dude, it’s Quidditch,” she said.

For her and roughly 20 fellow students, few things are more fun than competing in the sport made popular by the Harry Potter series. Blenn, a 21-year-old senior from Meridian, Idaho, has been participating since she helped form the club in 2012.

“It’s been a blast, honestly,” she said. “It’s been one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.”

Blenn, who is studying wildlife biology and hopes to work with wolves after she graduates, said she hasn’t participated in athletics since she was in middle school. But when she arrived on the UI campus, Quidditch was already an up and coming sport at other colleges, and she decided to begin a club at the UI.

In the books, Quidditch players fly around in stadiums on magic brooms in a game that combines elements of football, soccer and even dodgeball.

In real life, Quidditch is played on a grass field with PVC pipe instead of brooms. Teams score points by sending a “quaffle,” or in this case, a volleyball, through upright goals. They just have to avoid being hit with a dodgeball, or “bludgers,” thrown by the opposing team. If hit, players must run back and touch their team’s goal.

Teams can get up to 30 points and end the game if they catch the snitch.

In the books, the “snitch” is a tiny golden ball with magic wings that moves through the air as if it has a mind of its own. In the real sport, the snitch is a ball attached to the shorts of a neutral player who runs around avoiding capture. He or she is also allowed to disrupt other players, whether by stealing their brooms or through more creative methods like throwing water balloons at them, Blenn said.

It’s the seeker, the position Harry Potter plays, who is responsible for catching the snitch.

Though Quidditch is inspired by the Harry Potter series, Blenn said teams are trying to move public perception away from the books and urge people to see Quidditch as a legitimate sport. She said otherwise, Quidditch will continue to have a reputation of being a “nerdy” activity.

“We want to be taken seriously,” she said.

The Manticores are part of a national governing body that oversees nearly 200 teams called United States Quidditch (USQ). Blenn said Moscow typically plays other northwest teams in Boise, Seattle, Portland and British Columbia. It’s a year-round sport with matches played during the winter, when players must deal with cold fingers and slippery surfaces, she said.

The UI team usually practices on weekends. Aside from the odd-looking hoops and, of course, the “brooms,” their practice resembles what one could expect from other sports.

During their Oct. 4 practice, the team started with a jog before participating on drills to improve footwork and agility. They then practiced plays during a team scrimmage.

She said the number of members who participate fluctuates during the year, often due to players having other commitments related to school and jobs. Blenn said she is fine with Quidditch taking a backseat to other responsibilities.

“We tell everyone school comes first,” Blenn said.

But, she said, this is the first year they had a consistent number of people show up to practices.

While the sport continues to grow in popularity, she said it’s still foreign to many.

“Most people don’t realize that Quidditch is a thing,” she said.

The team advertises during events like Vandal Fridays and Palousafest. They are also active on Facebook, and have their own page on the USQ website.

Blenn said the university provides $2,000 a semester to cover costs like equipment and travel, though the team still needs to raise funds to make ends meet.

When they do travel, they meet other teams who share the same love and enthusiasm for Quidditch. Blenn said that sense of community is her favorite aspect of the sport and it manifests itself on the field.

“Typically after games, we don’t shake hands,” she said. “We hug.”

She hopes those unfamiliar with the sport will also discover the same level of enthusiasm.

“It looks nerdy,” she said. “Try it anyway.”


Information from: The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, https://www.dnews.com

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