GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Grasping broomsticks between their legs, coed teams with names like Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw darted around a field Saturday at Richard Stockton College trying to grab hold of an elusive snitch.
Unlike the fictional game portrayed in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” novels, the competitors at the college’s first Quidditch tournament were not soaring through the skies on broomsticks, but were instead running with them on the ground.
The game balls used to score points were deflated volleyballs, and the “bludgers” — used to bludgeon opponents — were not made of iron, but were instead brightly colored kickballs.
And the golden snitch — which must be captured for the game to end — was not a flying golden ball the size of a walnut, but rather full-grown college students dressed in yellow, dashing behind trees and garbage cans until exhaustion got the best of them.
“I stopped playing sports when I was 12, and I’m asthmatic. But we’re all book nerds here, so no one is better than anyone else out here. This is our sport,” said Rebecca Revay, 19, of Bordentown, Burlington County, after her Slytherin team routed Gryffindor 120-0 in a first-round game.
The four-hour tournament — hosted by Stockton’s literary club the Idols of the Tribe — was created out of senior Samantha Neal’s desire to experience the game more often.
“I went to the Quidditch World Cup in New York City last year, and there were about 20,000 people there,” said Neal, 22, of Bridgeton. “There are about 600 Quidditch teams nationwide, but as far as I know, none in South Jersey. So in February we started working on having a one-day tournament here and, after two weeks of practicing, here we are.”
While Neal’s love for the game made the tournament happen, she was not one of the approximately 50 competitors sprinting around the field Saturday. Instead, she gave play-by-play commentary from the sideline.
“I’m not the athletic type,” she admitted. “I just wanted to watch it.”
Not all of those in attendance were Harry Potter fans.
“There are some people playing who have never read the book or seen the movies,” Revay said. “It’s just something they wanted to do because it sounded like fun.”
“I just had the rules explained to me by my 10-year-old daughter,” said Justin Davids, 37, of Northfield, whose store Far Point Toys, located in Level Up Entertainment in the Hamilton Mall, donated the trophy for most valuable player. “But I’m glad she did, because once you catch on, it is quite enjoyable to watch. I love geek culture, so this is a great thing to be involved with.”
Even though the tournament was planned as a one-time event, many of the participants hope to start a Quidditch Club at Stockton so they can participate in the sport regularly.
“I’m not cool enough to be a nerd or a geek, but I’m still here having a great time,” joked senior Elizabeth Kang, 25, of Marlboro, Monmouth County. “Hopefully this tournament will help us get some teams together to compete against other schools next year, because it is a great way to have fun and meet new people.”
“And the next Quidditch World Cup isn’t until 2013,” Revay said. “So we have some time.”
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