Hunger Games

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

With those words, a quote from the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, we all set out from Sugar Grove Free Library to crush our enemies and generally have a good time.

The inaugural Sugar Grove Hunger Games featured ten competitive events, nine districts (teams), and about 30 competitors.

In my case, I was hoping the biggest and strongest competitors would be at an advantage most of the time. I certainly couldn’t fall back on being among the most nimble or those in the best shape. I could have beaten most of the 13- to 16-year-old crowd in a World’s Strongest Man style competition.

There were events that favored size and strength. I liked those. I did well in the joust and the bungee run on that basis.

Unfortunately for me, everyone did well in the bungee run. I don’t remember seeing anyone who didn’t get their velcro square out to the very end of the thing. Some struggled, but they made it.

And there were events that did not favor size. The rock wall – a 700-pound inflatable climbing wall that I had a better chance of lifting than scaling – just wasn’t my thing. The younger competitors with hands and feet that fit the hand- and footholds, the flexibility to play a vertical form of twister, and less weight to drag up the thing did much better on that.

The obstacle race involved riding a plastic kids’ tricycle a short distance among other things. I broke mine.

The hoop shoot could have favored the taller members or the younger ones who are more likely to actually play basketball. Anyone who has ever seen me play basketball, a thankfully small membership, knows it didn’t favor me.

I finished in the middle of the pack in the triathlon – a running, bicycling and archery event that favored runners about 5-feet-8. The provided adult bikes were too tall for the small, too small for the tall, and the running, well that just wasn’t pleasant at all. Fortunately, I didn’t have to move for about 20 minutes after that.

The laser tag, foam archery, and trap shooting favored experience more than anything.

The trap shooting, the first of the day, was the only event in which not every participant participated.

Our team – the Ferocious Fishermen – got off to a good start. Our ringer, Nathan Onuffer, hit six of the ten targets. He was disappointed, but I was impressed.

I got off to a good start, too. With some advice from Nathan, I managed several more than my minimum goal of not missing them all. I hit four or five. There was this loud, distracting noise every time I tried to see if I hit the target.

Back at the arena – Sugar Grove town square – our team, Nathan, Kelly Gustafson, and I started at the joust. We also discovered that we were to be matched up with the blue and orange teams all day. The orange team – Eisenhower High School recent graduates Timm Peterson, Jordan Pangborn, and Jason Passinger – struck me, and probably many others who were scouting the competition, as the team to beat. I heckled them at every opportunity.

Kelly and I dispatched our blue opponents in the joust. Nathan lost to an orange.

All day long, we lost to orange. Darned kids.

Even in the foam archery event, about as random a competition as I can imagine with bendy arrows and unfamiliar equipment, they dominated.

In the end, they won the team challenge and walked away with the Kindles.

Our team held second place for most of the day. We were overtaken in the last few events – age and the triathlon were my excuses.

Scores were kept by team and by individual. The top scorer from each team went into the finals. I was one of those.

The bungee run did little to break up the field. The rock climbing separated the wheat from the chaff. Whereas I had made it more than halfway up the thing earlier in the day, I couldn’t find one foothold and took a zero on that one. Several competitors made it to the top and back down. One, Jeff Passinger, made it to the top, but was disqualified when he didn’t safely navigate back down.

I figured I was out of the running at this point, but I was determined to do my best on the final event.

The softball throw had been eliminated from the original slate of events, but organizers included it in the finals. There were six tracker-jacker nests (think wasp nests) attached to the backstop behind Sugar Grove Elementary School – four at about eye level, two at more than twice that high.

We had five throws from about 60 feet to hit the nests – papier mache without any stinging insects. I had an edge over the younger competitors – who had succeeded in the climbing – in that they are used to baseballs. After one round, I was one of three competitors who had two points. I bullseyed one of the higher nests.

None of us hit anything in round two.

At the awards ceremony, I heckled the orange guys again as they took their fancy team prizes.

In a moral victory, none of them finished in the money – top three in the finals.

Those honors went to Tyler Heubach in first, Josef Bauer in second by one point ahead of… Brian Ferry.

I was surprised to hear my name, and very pleased. I plan to be back to defend my podium spot next year.