Utahns trying to make quidditch catch on

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It's a game you may have seen only on the big screen. But just in time for the release of the latest "Harry Potter" movie, some Utah fans are trying to make quidditch catch on here.

Interest in quidditch spikes every time a "Harry Potter" movie is released, but Utah Quidditch Organization President Nicholas Burk says the game is actually separating from the movie franchise and is becoming its own entity.

"It's so athletic," he said. "A lot of people are surprised to come and see us running over each other, stealing stuff and knocking people over."

This is the first year for the UQO, but the International Quidditch Association has been around since 2005. Burk says since then, roughly 500 schools around the world have formed teams.

"Once in a while, we pick up a sponsor. The London Market is sponsoring us. Fiction Addictions and Two Day Design are sponsoring us and a few organizations," he explained.

The Snow Cup season kicked off with the University of Utah Crimson Flyers taking on the Utah Hex Community Team.

Crimson Flyers Head Coach Sequoia Thomas didn't seem too worried about the Hex.

"No. No we're not. We may be brand new, but you know, [we're not worried]," she said.

She admitted, however, that she would be very worried if TCU had a Quidditch team.

Utahns trying to make quidditch catch on

Thomas says the trickiest part the game is handling the ball with one hand while holding the broomstick between your legs with the other.

"That's where most of the drilling and the training comes in is to learn how navigate that situation," she said.

How do you play?

Let's consult the official handbook, and yes, there really is one.

It's extremely similar to what you'd see in the movie, except for all the flying and self-aware balls. You have three hoops posted on either end and the "chaser" is trying to throw the main scoring ball, or "quaffle," through any one of the hoops. The chaser gets 10 points every time he or she succeeds.

But trying to stop the chasers are the beaters who hurl dodge balls, called "bludgers," at everybody. If you get hit with one, you have to stop everything that you're doing and run back and touch one of your hoops.

The last line of defense is the "keeper" who tries to block the quaffle from going through the hoops.

Stay with me. There's more.

Harry Potter's position on the field is called the "seeker." The seeker chases a flying golden ball called the "snitch." Since Adidas has yet to create a flying golden ball with artificial intelligence, an independent runner, dressed in yellow and carrying a tennis ball stuffed down a yellow sock, runs around and acts as the snitch.

Dakota Briggs was called to be the snitch for this game. "They have two seekers and I just have to evade them and if they catch [me] the game is over, and they get 30 points," Briggs explained.

"I love Harry Potter," he added. "I love the books and when I found out about this I was all for it."

He's allowed to taunt the chasers, interrupt the game play and even use spectators as obstacles, just as long as the seekers don't rip the tennis ball in the sock from him.

In the movie, the team that catches the snitch wins the game, but that's not necessarily the case in real life. Catching the snitch does end the game, but that doesn't mean the team that catches it has won. If one team is down by, say, 50 points, getting the snitch will give that team 30 points, but they'll still lose the game by 20.

When the dust settled, the Crimson Flyers won both games of the double header, giving them a big lead in the championship race. Other teams in the Utah Quidditch Organization include the Judge Memorial High School Bulldogs and a team from Salt Lake Community College.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com


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