MCC Esports hoists championship banner

Program wraps successful first season

T-R PHOTO BY NICK BAUR From left to right, Andrew Goforth, Amber Lawthers and Nate Rodemeyer pose with the national championship banner Lawthers won playing Mario Kart 8 this past year as part of the MCC Esports team during a ceremony on Friday afternoon.

It was the finishing touch on a remarkably successful first season for the MCC Esports team as gamers gathered Friday afternoon to hoist Amber Lawthers’ National Championship banner recognizing her dominance in Mario Kart 8 this past year.

The MCC athlete was crowned national champion in early December of last year, and with the accomplishment came a whirlwind of praise, media attention, and interest in the newly established group of gamers.

But for the Mario Kart aficionado, even with some time removed from the achievement, the hanging of the banner still felt surreal.

“I’ve had a semester to think about it,” Lawthers said. “I still don’t think it’s real.”

For Esports Coach Nate Rodemeyer, Lawthers’ national championship win and rise to prominence has become emblematic of the quasi-rags to riches story of their program.

“If I could go back and talk to myself in August and say, ‘Well, here’s where you’re going to be at in May,’ you could have knocked me over with a feather,” Rodemeyer said. “We wanted our teams to get together and win as many games as they lost, just go out there and have fun, figure it out, get this thing built. To have the success that we’ve had, it’s just been incredible.”

Particularly important for Rodemeyer was the ability for the esports program to not only be competitive in the five different games they played, but for their teams to provide a place and community for students to feel like they belong, something Lawthers attested to herself.

“It’s really, really cool, because I also did find my place here,” Lawthers said. “Before I joined the esports team, I was just coming to MCC to get out of MCC basically. I didn’t care about classes. I didn’t care about making friends. But then the Esports program showed up, and it’s motivated me to actually care about what I’m doing here. It let me meet all kinds of new friends that I cherish.”

The team ended the year with over 20 students involved in some aspect of the program, but after a strong recruiting effort over the academic year, the team is poised to have nearly 60 members next year.

“We had a three year plan when we went in, and we’re hitting the year three goal at the end of year one,” Rodemeyer said. “The students that we have are such good representatives and citizens of our community and the school, and they’re bringing in friends, and they’re bringing in other people.”

With more gamers en route to bolster the ranks of the Esports teams, Lawthers says she’s looking forward to defending her title and also shifting into a leadership role to help prepare the next batch of student athletes.

“We’re getting a bunch of new Mario Kart players next semester. So it’s also going to be my job to coach them… I think Nate and Andrew (Goforth) are really tired of me info-dumping obscure knowledge and mechanics of the game,” Lawthers joked. “I finally get to talk to people who care about the obscure data tables and mechanics of the game.”

Like Rodemeyer said, with the program having its feet beneath it and the guidance of competent student leaders like Lawthers, the main goal that lies ahead is maintaining what they have going so far.

“It’s less about growth, and more about maintenance. It’s really refining what we have,” he said. “It really does hinge on the hard work that all of these guys are putting in each of their respective titles. They’re taking the general coaching things that apply to all of them to heart, and the conversations we have with them. Then they’re really dialing into their game specifically with the resources that we can provide, and the cool thing is we’re building on that too.”

As for Lawthers, who will take part in her last season next academic year, she plans to continue to compete in Mario Kart at a 4-year university, and she laments having to leave MCC so soon.

“They’re going to have to drag me out of here kicking and screaming,” she said with a smile.


Contact Nick Baur at 641-753-6611 or nbaur@timesrepublican.com.


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