Students paint competition

By Phil Collins

Every weekend students travel outside of the Urbana-Champaign area to shoot paint at each other.

Illini Paintball, a Registered Student Organization, was formed in the mid-1990s and has been successful competitively. The group has won five national championships.

“It’s a pretty close-knit team …. That transfers onto the field,” said James Leong, senior in LAS and Business.

The team is part of the National Collegiate Paintball Association. More than 300 other university clubs from across the nation are also members.

The paintball association founder and former University student Chris Raehl said that about 200 of these clubs are active and about 100 have competitive teams.

The paintball association organizes class A and AA events. Illini Paintball is part of class A but still participates in class AA events. Class A is a smaller, invitation-only group within the association consisting of 14 already well-established teams.

Class A is split up into three conferences: two with five teams and one with four teams. Illini Paintball is part of the Midwest conference, along with Illinois State University, Purdue, University of Wisconsin at Madison and Grand Valley State University.

Class A plays X-ball, as opposed to class AA’s five-man competition. X-ball involves players scoring points by capturing a flag and returning it to their own base during two 16-minute halves. Five people are on the field for each team at a time, but teams can have a larger roster.

Leong describes X-ball as a cross between paintball and hockey, because players can be penalized in the same manner.

Jessica Debruler, junior in ACES, had never played paintball before coming to college. She says coming in knowing nothing about the sport is OK because there are plenty of experienced players to show you how to do it right.

“The game is really fast paced,” she said. “There is so much commotion going on … people shouting across the field, paint flying everywhere. (At first it’s hard to know) what job you’re supposed to do.”

Illini Paintball won both of its matches in their first class A conference event this season “by quite a margin,” Raehl said.

In the future, Raehl said he would like to add a western conference to the paintball association. The current three conferences consist of teams from the Midwest and the east. He said he also wants to lower costs for teams by bringing in more sponsors.

“Each year we have a bigger and bigger turnout because paintball is getting more popular,” said Kyle French, tournament captain for Illini Paintball and junior in FAA.

The other two Midwest conference events will take place on Feb. 24 and Mar. 30, followed by the national championships in April.