At the completion of the inaugural season with the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), the Centralia College Trailblazers Esports team placed second in Rocket League and first and third in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

“Student success is all we care about and this program has achieved that,” said Jacob Beach, the Centralia College Esports coach. “We’re no longer just playing these games for fun. We’re playing to improve, to get better, to learn, to be the best.”

Centralia College established esports as a varsity program in spring of 2018 and currently has 30 rostered players that have achieved success in the NJCAA’s most recent tournament which consisted of six regular season games and four bracketed playoff games.

The NJCAA, consisting of 30 colleges all over the country, is the national governing body for two-year college esports programs in the U.S. The most recent esports season ended on Dec. 5 2019. The Trailblazers esports team is back in the esports arena in the TransAlta Commons building after winter break and players are practicing and working on their skills. The esports arena is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment including monitors, keyboards, headsets, gaming chairs, and high-speed internet.

The esports team competes against other schools in the following games: Overwatch, League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Rocket League, Hearthstone, and Magic: The Gathering Arena.

Beach has been an esports coach for six years, starting at Centralia College in August of 2018. He said the esports program has inspired students keep their grade point average at a 2.0 or higher and take at least 12 credit hours a semester in order to stay on the team.

“For Washington state we are worlds ahead. We are the trailblazer, no pun intended. We are still the only school in the state to offer scholarships for esports and have a paid staff to run the program, which is myself,” Beach said

Beach said that Robert Cox, vice president of Student Services and Shelley Bannish the director of Student Life have been extremely supportive of the esports program.

Jadon Grimes is a second-year student at Centralia College as well as a senior in high school because he has taken advantage of the “running start” program that allows students to earn high school and college credits at the same time. Grimes plays Rocket League and placed second in the most recent NJCAA tournament.

“Taking it from just a game at home, one of my pastimes, to something more than that and to be able to play with my friends and make connections like that,” said Grimes when asked about his favorite part of being on the esports team.

Evan Thomas, second-year, and Chance Hockett, running start second-year, are the best Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players on the team and both agree that the in-person aspect of the game makes it fun because they get to travel to compete against new opponents. Hockett took home first place for the Trailblazers in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in the most recent tournament and Thomas came in third. 

All games except for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is played using a mouse and keyboard because it allows for a wider range of motion on the mouse pad giving the player much more precision. 

“Mouse and keyboard is the preferred method because there is a higher skill cap,” said Beach.

Coming up, NJCAA will be beginning the next season and the Centralia College Trailblazers esports team will be competing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Overwatch, Rocket League, and FIFA.

Beach talked a bit about the long term goals he has for the esports program.

“Long term goals are to expand to a different area. We’re looking to build an actual permanent onsite facility for esports, as well as expanding to bringing in more outside, international recruits,” he said. 

Coach Beach said that their team is always looking for new players and interested players should visit the esports arena in room 339 in the TransAlta Commons building on the Centralia College campus. 

The team also holds weekly Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournaments every Friday, which are open to the public.

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