COLUMBIA - At one end of a field, a team of high school students stand at attention, ready to strike. The other end, a group of middle-aged men from across the Midwest wait for their signal to charge. A line of neon yellow balls separates the two teams. The referee blows his whistle and he screams "Dodgeball," sending players toward each other in a dead sprint. When they reach the balls, bodies scramble to grab as many as they can.
The top teams in each of the two divisions of the Show-Me State Games' dodgeball tournament Saturday at the Missouri Athletic Center qualified for the National Amateur Dodgeball Association's national tournament next July. The competition was open to teams in 14 states in the Midwest as part of the State Games of Mid-America, but the only non-Missouri competitor was from Iowa City, Iowa.
Team Peters, a group of students from St. Charles, was one of three teams of high school students that competed against teams with players older than them.
"We really have enjoyed getting the chance to play against the adults who provide some harder competition," Eric Peters, captain of Team Peters, said.
Peters, whose team won the high school division, said his team formed while playing games at Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles.
"We practice a lot at our church and won a tournament at the Christ In Youth Conference in Carbondale, Ill., that over 50 teams played in," Peters said.
The adult teams seemed less competitive.
"We are a little less serious than some of these younger guys," Jane Drummond, a player on The Average Janes said. "We are just of group of men and women who are co-workers who wanted to do something fun together."
The Average Janes were named after Drummond, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The players all work for Drummond in Jefferson City.
This was the first year the Average Janes played in the games, but several of the other teams have competed in the past.
Last year's runner-up, the 5D's, were playing in their third tournament and have also played on the national level.
"After our first-place victory two years ago, we played in the national tournament in Schaumburg, Ill.," Shane Cason said. "We ended up placing second and really want to win here today to go back again next year.
Members of the 5D's would not have known each other without playing in various sports leagues around Columbia. Team Balls Deep, on the other hand, is a group of friends from across the Midwest.
"We have family and friends from St. Louis to Iowa on our roster, including a few that work alongside me at the Kansas City Police Department," Richard Salzman said. "Most of us went to college together and have stayed in touch since."
The Awkward Turtles have also been playing sports together for several years.
"They all grew up together in Columbia and were psychology and engineer majors at MU," said Katharine Sheptor, the wife of player John Sheptor. "It is really cool to see them still play together and have fun after all these years they have known each other."
The 5D's beat The Awkward Turtles in the finals, 3-0, in a best-of-five series, to qualify for the NADA tournament.
Average Janes also qualified for the national tournament after earning the gold medal in the coed division.