COLUMBIA — At the referee's call of “Three, two, one, polo!” two teams, composed of three bicyclists each, race toward the ball at the center of the court. The team members have their custom-made mallets in hand. The spokes of their wheels are protected by cardboard or plastic shields.
Some fall from their fixed-gear bikes, while others hit the side wall. Bumps and bruises are visible on many of the players’ arms and legs. But after eight minutes of play, one team will advance in the tournament bracket.
Such was the scene over the weekend at Cosmopolitan Park when the Columbia-based bicycle polo organization COMOPOLO hosted its acclaimed and creatively spelled Midwest Bike Polo Champeenships for the first* time.
The event attracted teams of seasoned players and newcomers from as far as Phoenix and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Malakai Edison of Lawrence, Kan., fielded two teams in the competition: “Larry is Scary,” with players Matt “Jimmy” Farnsworth, Chris Klee and Matt Brown and “Scary Larry,” with Peter Lewis, Charley Berry and Edison. Members of COMOPOLO encouraged Edison to start a bike polo organization in Lawrence and helped him with some of the materials to make it happen.
“We started having people come out in October, … and we actually came out here to Columbia to grab some pipe from them to help build up some mallets,” Edison said. He added that the teams’ relative inexperience did not curb the players enthusiasm for the weekend event.
“We said we would be here even though we hadn’t even figured out really how to play yet,” he said.
On Saturday morning, “Larry is Scary” went up against a team from Florida whose name expresses pride in their state but includes an explicative not suitable for print. The Floridian team's members are three women: Cherri Czajkowski of Jacksonville, Fla.; Amanda Pease of Tampa, Fla.; and Samantha Luisi of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Combined, the women have more than five years of bike polo experience, and they quickly defeated the three men from Lawrence who had only been playing since October.
Edison remained excited, though, despite the loss. “We’re trying to show up and show COMO that we appreciate them inviting us out here, so we’re going to try and play our hardest,” he said.