In terms of overall success, Socorro High School’s E team came out of the Albuquerque State Tournament last weekend with a fifth-place finish.
Considering they didn’t field a registration in any of the five titles — the Warriors couldn’t find anyone to play Madden football — coach Jesse Griffith was pretty pleased.
“We were able to beat some of the toughest schools in the state,” he said. “I believe 3A has one of the toughest competitions due to schools involved like Sandia Prep, Taos Academy, St. Michael’s, Albuquerque School for Excellence and Early College Academy running away every year.”
Socorro rode the back of his senior-laden Mario Kart team that entered the tournament as the top seed but unexpectedly lost in the championship game to second-seeded Raton, a team the Warriors had beaten twice during the regular season.
The team was formed by captain Cody Johnston shortly before the start of the season. He recruited friends Jeremiah Patterson, Elias Zheng and Finn Parker. The latter two are Johnston’s teammates from the Warriors football team.
“We got our team together about two weeks before the normal season and none of us had ever played competitive Mario Kart before,” Johnston said. “My freshman year, my teacher, Mr. Griffith, he started e-sports, and jokingly, I told him, take Mario Kart and I’ll join because I like playing Mario Kart. In my senior year , the NMAA featured Mario Kart, so I kept my word and asked Elias, Finn, and Jeremiah to play so we had a full team.
Making the transition from casual to competitive gamer was a bigger leap than expected, he said.
“I thought I was fine, I guess I was fine for a casual player, but when we started playing competitively I learned I wasn’t the best,” Johnston said. “There’s a big jump between casual and competitive Mario Kart, I learned.”
He credited Zheng with making a real effort to get the team up to speed quickly.
“Elias taught us a lot of shortcuts,” Johnston said. “He recently bought a Switch (a network device that enhances the capabilities of a computer) and he bought Mario Kart. He may have been playing for four months, but he definitely learned very quickly. And it was really good for him to be able to teach us a lot of these things.
For his part, Zheng said he was simply a good teammate.
“Honestly, it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m still trying to understand what happened on Saturday. But we had a good time. It’s a shame we had to lose the big championship.
Zheng, however, was able to expand his state tournament experience, working as a color analyst or “shoutcaster” for broadcast 4A and 5A championship games.
“I knew I had to get on that stage because shoutcasting is one of my passions,” he said. “They put me on game 4A and I commented and color analyzed every game because I had the experience. I was only supposed to do 4A but they took me back for 5A. Shoutcasting is great fun. My play-by-play partner was a good partner. We played very well. »
The school’s esports team has completed its fourth season and has seen phenomenal growth along the way, Griffith said.
“It’s the biggest team and I expect it to continue to grow,” he said. “We started with eight dedicated players back then and now have 32. Hopefully we’ll sign players from Madden for next year.”
And like any sport, it takes a lot of practice to be proficient, Griffith said.
“These kids compete every week for about 16 weeks,” he said. “Esports never ends. There are summer cups and prizes for students to win.