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Courtesy New Mexico Activities Association

Students participate in the NM esports program. Both Taos Academy and Taos High School have esports programs.

This Friday (April 30) the Taos Academy Charter Esports team will take to the virtual court to battle it out for a third-place title at the 2021 Spring NMACT Esports State Championship.

Esports refers to electronic sports and consists of organized competition between video game enthusiasts. The sport has steadily risen in popularity over the last decade, with professional teams all over the world reaching superstar status. According to the NMACT, there are 56 high schools participating in esports in New Mexico.

The team, now in its third year, competes in the the A-3A classification, along with 21 other teams from around the state. Though the team and Coach Cal van Willigen have their work cut out for them, there is reason to be optimistic.

This 2021 season included two games: Rocket Legend and League of Legends. Both games act like tournaments, granting points to teams based on final standings. Taos Academy finished fourth overall on the season, with a final score of 22 points. (To put that into perspective, the winning team West Las Vegas, had 35 points, and the 22nd-place team Animas, had 1 point.) Taos Academy grabbed 11 points from each game and landed a good seeding in the State Tournament.

"I am very proud we are having the kind of success that we are during only our third season," said Coach van Willigen before his semifinal League of Legends match.

In both the League of Legends and Rocket League portions of the tournament, Taos Charter was a 3 seed. In the Rocket League event, they took a stunning loss to the 6th seeded team from Santa Rosa. In the League of Legends, they moved on to the semifinals where they faced off against Early College Academy (a 2 seed). Unfortunately, they lost there as well.

Despite the rocky end to the season, the team was a powerhouse in an expansive district. Under Coach van Willigen (or "Mr. V" as his students call him) the esports program at Taos Academy Charter is looking to continue its road to the top.

The fourth season of esports at Taos Academy will kick off in the fall.

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