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NATIONAL LASER TAG TOURNAMENT Playing up a storm



Published: Wed, July 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By JENNINE ZELEZNIK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Cool gray tendrils of fog snaked unnoticed around the players' ankles.

The quick pulses of a strobe light disguised their movements as they, phasers in hand, darted among the orange, paint-splattered walls.

The paint, the floor, the players' shirts -- everything glowed with the eerie fluorescence of black lights.

The two boys definitely weren't in Kansas anymore.

They were, in fact, at Jester's Court -- a laser storm center and arcade on U.S. Route 422 -- to compete in the fifth national laser tag tournament.

Chris Larson, 15, and Kevin O'Halloran, 17, are both members of a laser storm team hailing from Olathe, Kan.

They drove to Ohio for the experience of competing in the largest laser storm, (a form of laser tag), competition of the year.

Their chances?

"Bad," O'Halloran said immediately.

"Yeah," Larson chimed in. "We don't expect to win."

They say it's because their team has only been together a few weeks, while some have been together for years.

Regional champs: Take, for example, the local team Oblivion, which has worked together for two years. Oblivion was this year's regional champion and is among the top three teams in the nation.

Justin Kopelos of Warren, who plays on Oblivion, said it's intimidating to compete in the large tournaments.

"It makes you nervous, and you wonder how you're going to do," the 15-year-old said between bites of chicken nuggets. "You're not sure about yourself. But once you're in the arena, you're good to go.

"Now we're the ones intimidating the other teams."

Another Oblivion member, George Raptis, 22, helped to organize this year's tournament at Jester's Court.

"It's been insane," Raptis said, reaching for a mug of coffee. "I haven't gotten any sleep in three days."

Previous years: This is the first year Jester's Court has been host of the event. It's previously been held in Kansas, Pennsylvania and Colorado, among other places.

Ohio, though, is a hotbed of laser storm activity, and Jester's Court is one of the most active of the more than 100 facilities in the nation, said Raptis, who works there. They put in a bid for the tournament and won it.

Teams came from Colorado, Kansas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to compete in the tournament.

"It would not have gone over without George," owner Brian DeCiancio said, a black laser storm ball cap perched on his head. "He tracked people down, found hotel rooms -- he did the vast majority of the work."

DeCiancio added a common misconception about laser tag is that it is only for young kids.

"But as you can see, there's a die-hard group in their late teens and early 20s," DeCiancio said, gesturing around the room teeming with players. "And they are competitive. They take this very seriously."




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