'Quidditch' invades SOU campus

"Run, snitch, run!"

With a shout, Jessica Snee sets an afternoon game of "quidditch" into motion. The once-fictional sport, featured in author J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, made its debut on the Southern Oregon University campus Sunday.

In the Harry Potter universe, the "snitch" is a winged golden ball, the capture of which ends the quidditch match. Here on SOU's Cox Lawn, the snitch is freshman William Barondeau. The "seekers" on both teams aim to snatch a tennis ball in a sock from the back of Barondeau's cargo pants.

"It's weird being a ball," Barondeau said after the game.

Snee and classmate Ruth Poliakon, both freshmen, decided to host the game some weeks ago. Poliakon posted a notice about the event on Facebook two weeks in advance. She received 27 online responses. Twelve people show up in time to grab their brooms for the 2 p.m. start.

"It's probably the most confusing game I've ever heard of," Poliakon said.

The game centers on the main ball, called the "quaffle." Each team's "chasers" try to throw

the quaffle through the opposing team's goal (a row of three hoops, each attached to a chair with duct tape and a two-by-four).

— — Left to right, Ron Oliver, Ruth Poliakon, Krystle Williams, Graham Tordoff and Tyler Lacy play a game of Quidditch on the Cox Hall lawn at SOU Sunday.

Specialized players called "beaters" try to peg opponents with "bludgers" (playground balls), forcing them to circle their own goal area before returning to play.

Meanwhile, each team's "seekers" chase the snitch around the campus to claim its 50-point bounty and end the game. Today, the snitch has fled to the other side of the university library to escape its would-be captors.

Back on the quidditch pitch, the teams rush toward the balls at centerfield. The members of the "Hufflepuff" team wear gold headbands, while the "Slytherin" players wear none. Snee serves as a referee for the game while Poliakon plays as a chaser for Slytherin. The teams meet in the middle of the "arena" and struggle against each other &

and their brooms.

All players except the snitch must use at least one hand to hold a broom between their legs at all times. Though these brooms do not fly as their literary counterparts do, Snee and Poliakon managed to find Clean Sweeps brand plastic brooms at the dollar store.

"That's actually a brand of brooms in Harry Potter," Poliakon said.

As the action picks up, freshman Tyler Lacy, a beater, receives a penalty. He leaves the field for 60 seconds. The timekeeper is Doyne Mraz, Snee and Poliakon's University Seminar instructor. The game doubles as Snee and Poliakon's performance art term project for the University Seminar class, which all first-year students are required to take.

"Has it been 60 seconds yet?" Lacy said.

"Nope. 30," Doyne said.

— — Left to right, Amber Looney, Tyler Lacy, Ron Oliver, Jessica Snee and Graham Tordoff chase the ball — during a quidditch game on SOU’s Cox Hall lawn on Monday.

Snee and Poliakon have both read every published Harry Potter book multiple times. Snee wears a shirt emblazoned with the "Gryffindor" logo. In Rowling's books, Gryffindor is Harry Potter's house (and quidditch team) at the Hogwarts School. Their interest in quidditch is not unique.

Quidditch has already established itself on college campuses on the East Coast. The Intercollegiate Quidditch Association started at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt. According to its official Facebook page, the IQA includes teams at 130 colleges and universities in the United States. The University of Oregon currently hosts an IQA team.

After 30 minutes of play, snitch Barondeau heads back toward the pitch. Freshman Josh Bowen overtakes him near some parked cars and snatches the tennis ball away. Bowen breaks his own plastic broom in the process, but wins the game 90-70 for Slytherin.

The players take time to talk and recuperate before the next game. The game brings together participants of all fitness levels.

"I'm running more than I have all quarter," says freshman Graham Tordoff.

Snee and Poliakon hope to expand the event into a regular weekly meet, and possibly to join the IQA. Sunday's participants already plan to play again Saturday.

"Maybe if we get big enough we could organize a trip to play U of O," Poliakon says. "That would be intense."

— — Ryan Eaton runs to score with the quaffle ball during the quidditch game at SOU on Sunday.

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