By Skyler Ash
Walking through Kerr Hall late last Thursday night, intrepid Eye reporter Smith Johnson stumbled across Ryerson’s second-best kept secret: the pool in the RAC. Following that million-dollar nose on a whiff of chlorine, Johnson soon stumbled upon Ryerson’s first best-kept secret: the marco polo team.
“I didn’t think that was a professional sport, but they were all wearing branded swim caps,” said Johnson. “From that alone, I knew it was legit.” He watched their practice, which he described as “so beautiful” that he shed a few tears.
The splashing of Johnson’s tears onto the cold tile floors of the pool was the only water to be heard. The team, said Johnson, is so highly skilled that they scarcely make a sound in the water. They should be skilled, after all, as the team is composed of five men and six women who have all been attending Ryerson for the past 12 years.
“We only take a few classes a year so we can keep competing,” said Laurie Lower, a ninth-year biology student and captain of the team. “There are no professional adult marco polo leagues, so if we want to keep playing at the competitive level, this is our only choice.”
Lower started at Ryerson in 2005. It was in her second semester that she and her friend, Oscar Pavel, discovered the team when they accidentally walked into the RAC trying to find their politics lecture.
“I’d always liked the game as a kid, and I thought, ‘why the hell not?’” said Pavel. Pavel is the team’s ace Polo, and has the world record for longest amount of time spent before getting Marco’d (caught).
The team practices every Monday and Thursday night from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the pool in the RAC. “We practice so late so that people don’t find out about us, and because it seemed cooler,” said Lower. “Also, we all watch Castle on Mondays at 5 and need a few hours to discuss the episodes, so we need to start practice late.”
Only two other universities in Canada have marco polo teams-Western and the University of Saskatchewan. All three schools meet on the second Saturday of every month at Turtle Lake in western Ontario to compete.
“It’s pretty great! Sometimes my wife and I pack up the minivan and bring the kids to see me play,” said Ryerson’s newest marco polo player, Tim Matthews. Matthews joined the team 10 years ago. He didn’t hold himself back in school to stay on the team, but said he’s a “life-long learner,” which is why he’s been at Ryerson for so long. “I have like five degrees, it’s pretty wild,” said Matthews.
The team’s next match is Feb. 11. “This is a crucial game for us-myself in particular,” said Lower. “This is my last season with the team, because my parents said they won’t pay for my tuition anymore, and I only work part time at the Ryerson Campus Store, so I can’t afford to stay on.” She said that she’ll be giving the game her all, “Because the game gave me everything I have, and made me who I am today.”