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Liberty University has a nationally ranked paintball team

The Flames hope to compete for a national title in April

November 01, 2010|Justin McLeod | Reporter

LYNCHBURG, Va — Lynchburg's Liberty University is known for its founder Jerry Falwell, its law school, and its christian mission.  The latest distinction may surprise you.  LU has a nationally known and ranked paintball team.

Paintball has been around for years but only in the last few years has it become popular on college campuses.  LU's team started in 2005 when a group of students got together and wanted to play paintball.  Today, it is an official club sport on campus.

The team is made up of 22 LU students.  They players practice twice a week.  The university has built the team a practice facility. 

The players admit many are surprised Liberty has a paintball team.  Cody Leeworth, a Liberty Univ. player, told News 7 "some are like paintball?  college level?"  Brandon Ellswick, a Liberty Univ. player, says "they think it's crazy whenever we tell people about it.  People don't realize it's actually a college level sport."


Many of the players have been playing since they were about 10 or 12.  Some learned recently.  The players say the adrenaline rush you get while playing is unbelievable  Ben Konechne, a Liberty Univ player, told News 7 "what other sport can you shoot somebody and get away with it and it's just part of the sport?"

The team plays other colleges throughout the southeast including Virginia Tech.  It involves putting two teams of five on opposite ends of the field.  The players dash in between inflatable blunkers trying not to get shot.  You're out as soon as you get hit.  The team with the last remaining player on the field wins.

During practice and games the paintballs are flying at rapid fire.  Caleb Bilesner, a Liberty  Univ. player, told News 7 "not to get scientific actually 200 miles per hour."  Getting hit by a paintball does hurt, although the paint easily washes off in the washing machine.

The sport isn't cheap.  The players have to buy the guns, the equipment, and the paint.  They'll easily go through 60,000 paintballs during a practice, more than that during a game.  The players tell us the guns alone can cost more than $1,000. 

The players say they are real athletes, not gun enthusiasts.  Cody Leeworth, a player, tells News 7 "a lot of people think we are out in the woods shooting people from behind trees but honestly this is a great athletic game."  Caleb Bilesner tells News 7 "you're sprinting, you're diving, you're crawling, you walk off the field and your breathing hard."

The team's hard work has paid off.  The Flames are currently ranked 3rd in the nation for class AA.  The players plan to compete for the national title in April.  The players are proud of their national rank but hasn't let it gone to their heads.  Coach Todd Hogland told News 7 "the team is a goofy group of college guys.  Buy when they set foot on that field they transform into amazing players."

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