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Dodgeball gaining popularity

Last year, dodgeball took Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools by storm, gaining momentum due to word of mouth. This year, it became a bona fide phenomenon.

The league, which plays games every Tuesday night in the spring and is sponsored by the Lake Oswego Community School, nearly doubled in size in one year, going from eight teams and close to 90 participants to 15 teams and nearly 150 individual players.

When Ryan Durrett started dodgeball in Lake Oswego he figured that it might be a fun past time at the end of the school year for students who perhaps weren't already playing a spring sport. But the league's runaway success has him and co-coordinator Casey Tamblyn possibly retooling the format for next year.

'I was surprised. I thought that if we had around 100 kids it would great,' Durrett said.

Currently, dodgeball is only available to high school students at Lakeridge and Lake Oswego but, if gym space can be found, he may look at expanding who can enroll.

Nearly everyone who participated in last year's league and was still eligible to return, competed in the second season and, some of the players who were seniors last year, have expressed interest in starting up clubs at their respective colleges.

'We had close to 100% of the players back who weren't seniors last year and that's a good sign,' Durrett said.

Similar to last year, teams gather on Tuesday nights at Lake Oswego High School to do battle in a game that, until fairly recently, was only popular in gym class and recess at the elementary school level.

Teams squared off in best-of-seven battles with the winning squad being the one who could successfully knock out all of the opposing team's players or have the most players on the court at the end of the designated time period.

'We usually get in about six to eight games a night. There's less downtime this year and matches last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes,' Durrett said.

Each team plays eight regular season matches before a full playoff bracket is created with the teams being seeded based on their performance earlier in the year.

Of course, anything that builds team unity is also encouraged.

Once again, many squads donned matching homemade t-shirts, NBA jerseys, headbands or even batting gloves and many had unique team chants.

'It's a competitive but really respective league. The kids all have a blast. I think it's a good way for them to wind down the year,' Durrett said.

As one might expect, games attracted quite a bit of attention with students and parents often observing as spectators throughout the year.

The league attracted a wide variety of students.

'What's so entertaining is that you have varsity football players and then choir and band members. Every demographic in the school is covered and it's not necessarily the best athletes who are the best dodgeball players,' Durrett said.

And a larger percentage of female competitors also signed up this year, including one team that was made up of girls entirely.

Even in dodgeball, the rivalry between Lakeridge and Lake Oswego couldn't be quashed. By the end of the season, the two teams remaining to play for the championship were the top two seeded teams in the bracket.

Team Clune, a group of seniors from Lake Oswego High School bested top seed Team Paggi from Lakeridge for the league title. And, although the league is just for fun, Durrett was impressed with how much the quality of play has increased in just one year.

'The bar was raised this year. Last year's defending champions were knocked out in the second round of the playoffs. There was more parity,' Durrett said.

With the success of the dodgeball league, Durrett is already looking forward to next spring and has received assurance from many of this year's players that they are interested in competing again.

Durrett also hinted that, if the league continues to grow in popularity, he would like to see it expanded to perhaps the eighth grade level and even to other schools.