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ASU track & field 'its own clan'

April 16, 2013

Dragons swoop over hurdles at Arizona State. Barbarians hack at pole vaults and take no prisoners. Battles are fought on the rubber and polyurethane track at Sun Angel Stadium; clans clash and when the carnage ceases the athletes step into their respective territories to claim their home ground once more.

Fighting battles is the pastime of many of the athletes on the Sun Devil Track team, though there’s no actual body count since the skirmishes are of the cyber variety. They’re a part of a game called Clash of Clans, and over twenty members of the team as well as some of the coaches play on a daily basis.

“It’s literally a tiny game that you can play on your phone or iPad,” said junior pole-vaulter Chris Manuele. “We started last semester as sort of a joke, then we just kept it going.”

Clash of Clans is an interactive role-play game that allows users to build characters and use them for battle against other users all over the world. They are able to join rank with other users to form clans – and the track and field athletes have quickly learned that there is strength in numbers.

“We have 20, maybe 30 members in our clan,” said redshirt junior pole-vaulter and All-American Derick Hinch. “And our clan is moving up pretty quickly in the ranks.”

The players can also pick which characters to be in battle. Manuele is a fan of the barbarians, but Hinch likes the more expensive dragons for their firepower.

The game is set up to where builders must always be creating something, whether it’s new characters or objects that are useful to the clan. A good team of builders never stops working, even if that means the user has to keep them moving at unsavory hours.

“There’s been times where we’ve played at 3:30 in the morning,” said Manuele. “The builders have to keep going, so if that means waking up at 4 a.m. then that’s what you have to do.”

This type of dedication probably isn’t present in any but the most hardcore gamers, but the athletes don’t fit that description. Rather, they’re dedicated to the game because they’re athletes: dedication is just a part of their daily routine.  

“The game is a lot like track and field actually,” said Manuele. “There are a lot of little teams and parts that make up a whole clan.”

And when the clan gets together, all thoughts of real-life competition vanish. It’s a release for many of the athletes yet still an intense enough atmosphere to hold their attention.

“I play to keep my mind off the track meet,” said Hinch. “Track is pretty much all I think about so it lets my brain sort of get away from that for a bit.”

Added Manuele, “I just like to be able to do things with my friends. It’s nice to be able to talk to somebody on the track team about something other than track”

Opposing teams be warned: these athletes may translate their cyber-battles over to real life—and the clan is strong.