Adam Holbrook and his friend, Jacob McCoy, search for a geocache.

Photo courtesy of: Lenie Holbrook

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OHIO to play host to world’s largest geocaching competition

Midwest Open Geocaching Adventure slated for March 28-30

Ohio University’s Baker University Center Ballroom will serve as mission central for the world’s largest geocaching competition, which will bring hundreds of geocaching enthusiasts from throughout the country to Athens for the Midwest Open Geocaching Adventure (MOGA) March 28-30.

Geocaching is comparable to an outdoor treasure hunt. Participants use a specific set of GPS coordinates and an application on their smart phone or a dedicated GPS handheld receiver in an attempt to find the geocache, or container hidden, in a specified location. During MOGA, more than 40 geocaches will be hidden in terrain throughout Strouds Run State Park just outside of Athens.

Each year MOGA chooses a theme for its competitions. This year’s theme, “Geocaching: Impossible,” was developed by Lenie Holbrook’s Creativity and Innovation Management class. An associate professor in OHIO’s College of Business and a geocaching enthusiast, Holbrook said after participating in other geocaching competitions, he realized “we could do it in Athens and do it better.”

“Geocaching: Impossible” is being hosted in collaboration with the Athens County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Ohio University and MOGA.

“(These) events get a lot of promotion and exposure because they are unique and each competition gets its own souvenir icon, which is very important to geocachers,” said Jenna Dill, marketing and sales manager for the convention and visitor’s bureau. “They can only get this icon if they attend MOGA, so it makes them want to come.”

This competitive event is hosted in a new location each year. The Athens County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau put in an official bid to host the 2014 MOGA event in 2012 after meeting with the directors and discussing Athens as a host city.

“One of the MOGA directors came to visit Athens, and he loved the area,” Dill said, noting that Athens was informed that it won the bid for the 2014 competition in early 2013.

Athens developed the first formal geotrail in Ohio and currently boasts the only handicap-accessible trail in Ohio, and this year’s MOGA competition will be the farthest east the event has been hosted.

According to Holbrook, at least 500 participants are expected to participate in the competition and will come from as far away as Texas and Canada. Many families participate and create team names. A family from Minnesota will be attending with their five children.

Mike and Bridgett Griffin, husband and wife, have attended all 10 previous MOGA events and plan on traveling from St. Louis to attend this year.

This will be Katie Hendrickson’s first time attending the MOGA competition. Hendrickson is an OHIO student pursuing a doctoral degree in mathematics education and enjoys geocaching with her friends.

“It's a great way to see new places,” said Hendrickson. “Many geocaches take you to a historic site or a beautiful undiscovered place with a great view. Those are my favorites.”

Mike Snavely, director of curriculum content and academic technologies at the College of Business, will attend this year’s MOGA event with his wife and a colleague at OHIO.

“A GPS will only get you so close,” Snavely explained of geocaching, “and having multiple sets of eyes looking can make the process of finding the smallest of containers a lot easier.”

The Ohio University Army ROTC has signed up 20 volunteers to help at Strouds Run State Park on the day of the actual hunt – Saturday, March 29.

“Right now our role is to assist MOGA by being out on the course while the competition is running,” explained Timothy Green, a captain in the U.S. Army and an associate professor of military science with Ohio University’s Army ROTC. “Our focus will be the safety of the participants, rule enforcement, supervision and providing administrative support to the participants on the course.”

In addition, OHIO’s Outdoor Pursuits program will offer its Challenge course and zip line at a discounted price to MOGA participants.

“The event will give our students a chance to interact with a different audience,” said Dan Vorisek, director of Outdoor Pursuits.
MOGA activities will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 27, with welcome activities and a dinner by Kiser’s Barbeque at Eclipse Company Town in The Plains.

On Friday, Rocky Brands will sponsor a “spy training” buffet breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m. in its Boot Factory Grill in Nelsonville. The official MOGA “kick-off” will begin at 4 p.m. in the Baker University Center Ballroom – known as MOGA Central for the purpose of this competition – with coordinates for the geocaches being given. The event will also include a vendor display and a canned food drive to benefit a local food bank.

The hunt for geocaches will begin on Saturday morning and will include two competitions – one for individuals and another, held in the afternoon, for two- and four-person teams. Competitors will receive a map and containers and will be given an hour to strategize on how they will tackle the course.

The event will conclude with an awards ceremony Saturday evening in the Baker University Center Ballroom. Medals will be presented to winners, and the location of next year’s competition will be announced.

Online registration for the event has already closed, but anyone interested in registering may still do so the day of the event. For more information, visit