By Jeanna Packard
Ohio University senior Megan Crysler got her Christmas wish: She and her teammates are headed to New Orleans -- not to visit family but to play intramural flag football for a national championship.
"I can't wait," Crysler said. "I'm so excited to spend New Year's with my football friends."
Crysler is the quarterback and team captain of Blackout, which has earned a spot in the 2008 Slingbox American Collegiate Intramural Sports Flag Football National Championships. The games run Dec. 28 through Dec. 31.
Ohio University last played for a flag football championship in 2002, said Brad Whittaker, the university's director of Intramural and Club Sports.
The team members -- two sophomores and eight seniors -- didn't think they would make it this far after losing early games in the regional tournament in November. Crysler also broke her hand.
But the team fought back. By the time the regionals had ended, the All-Tournament Committee had named Crysler the Most Valuable Female Player, while teammate Andrew Mertz was dubbed Male MVP and Nate Stought received the All-Tournament award.
Other Blackout team members include Mallory Bergoch, Emilee Harpen, Natalie Schell, Jared Wilson, John Angelicchi, Tyler Edwards and Kayla Washburn.
For winning, Blackout received a $1,000 travel stipend and $400 to cover the entry fee for the championship tournament, Whittaker said. To help with travel costs, Ohio University Intramural Sports program offered to match any funds the team could raise through community donations.
"It's always exciting to have a group of young men and women go and represent our campus," Whittaker said.
When they're not on the field, team members said they plan to visit and make a film about areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, such as the 9th Ward east of downtown New Orleans.
Crysler said team members plan to show the documentary to those in the intramural program who helped make their trip possible.
Whether they return tournament champions or not, the experience will be memorable.
"Going to regionals and traveling with the team was one of the best times I've had in college," Crysler said. "I can't wait to go to New Orleans."
To help with the team's travel expenses, call Crysler at 440-283-9551.