The winter break is often a time for complete relaxation; wake up at noon, stay at home for most of the day, watch the last few seasons of Downton Abbey, crunch on some chips and then go back to sleep. Following a semester full of exams and essays, this is the obvious course of action for most students. Here, the only stress that takes place during the winter break is waiting for grades to return. That, and waiting for the upcoming winter semester to arrive, as the last few days of ‘freedom’ draw to a close.
Over the past three years, however, this has not been the case for me. Instead, the winter break brings a tinge of stress, a feeling that time is running out, though not due to the impending semester. Moreover, this feeling applies not only to me, but to several hundred University of Alberta students from a wide range of faculties. The reason? Antifreeze, a week full of competition between multiple teams of ten students, all vying for the gloried first place prize, and a fully-paid ski trip to a snowy destination. In 2010, I participated on the Orientation team, which placed a respectable eighth. But in the following year, a close childhood friend sent me a Facebook message, asking whether I would be interested in co-captaining a team composed of several friends from our elementary and junior high days at McKernan School. Without a second thought, I agreed.
At this time last year, I served as Vice-President Academic of the Students’ Union, which made competing in Antifreeze a delicate balance between attending university-scheduled meetings and the many Antifreeze events throughout the week. With the fall 2011 semester drawing to a close, Michael (the co-captain in 2011) and I put together a roster of high-energy, creative friends and then scheduled an opening team meeting at Remedy. I remember this meeting clearly, because I was nearly killed on the way there. Exhausted after a long day, I drowsily crossed 109th street next to Remedy, thinking “Why is this truck not slowing down for me!? He’s gonna run the red light!” As the truck passed through the intersection, I looked up, realizing that I had crossed well before the walk sign lit up. Thankfully, there were no other cars crossing the street, or else I would have been in bad condition.
With that first meeting, the name “Reindicks” was established, setting a foundation for what I hope becomes an Antifreeze team well into the future. Other possible names were the “Parapapapumpums,” the “Ice-testicles,” and several other obnoxious names not condoned by the Students’ Union, my employer at the time. For whatever reason, Reindicks stuck, probably because the majority of players on the team care little about what others think of them. (If you’ve been to any events thus far, then you know that Reindicks say, well, whatever comes to mind.) In hindsight, the name “Reindicks” was well-chosen, something that I am quite proud of.
Much to our dismay, the 2012 Antifreeze competition started slowly. On our first day, we handed in a flag missing much of the needed info outlined in the team packages. Furthermore, we placed near the bottom in the first few competitions of the day. Following day one, I remember us sitting around 27th out of 30. With day two, we made a slight climb, doing well in the dance, which catapulted us to about 20th overall. But then we caught fire. In the sled race, we placed second overall (though I still can’t fathom how we did not finish first. I am forever skeptical). On Friday, we earned another second overall finish in a small competition, where teams were asked to rebuild a lego structure, piece by piece. With this late surge, we moved from 20th to the top ten. We knew that our photo album was a strength, and that Mixology would bring us additional points. And we were correct. The final standings placed us in fifth, a significant climb from the 27th place of Tuesday.
Evidently, winning is tremendous fun. Yet, Antifreeze is valuable for many other reasons. As I reflect on both the current Antifreeze of 2013, and the one of 2012, it is clear that this competition is just as meaningful as many of the student government experiences that I have been a part of since becoming a U of A student. But why is this? Simply put, Antifreeze is all about resilience. Due to the complex photo album and the diverse array of challenges, each team is going to screw up several times. Already, the 2013 Reindicks team has had several days during the winter break that failed to bring out the majority of team members, sometimes leaving teammates stranded at locations such as Southgate Mall for part of the day. In the end, it is the team that persists that comes out with a strong finish. For instance, there were several teams in 2012 that absolutely crushed their opponents on days one and two, and then faded out of contention on Thursday and Friday. Conversely, Reindicks had an awful start, but remained confident, eventually placing respectably.
Antifreeze is also about creativity, which is reflected in the construction of a photo album. The 30-clue photo hunt takes hours upon hours, even days, with a handful of the clues requiring plenty of back-and-forth discussion. In both 2012 and 2013, the Reindicks set out with a ‘clear’ plan of action for the first day of photo-taking, and then wound up with completely different photos based on clever ideas and spur-of-the-moment thoughts. Much to our dismay, piecing together the photo album usually comes down to the final hours, with teammates already exhausted from the first few days of the competition. Yet, the competition is still incredible fun, with the deadlines providing more of a thrill than burden to teams.
In 2013, Antifreeze seems once again up in the air, with several teams looking like favourites. On one hand, there are the traditional powerhouse Narwhals and Campus Badassadors; however, up-and-comers such as the UAB Bears and Pandas, Team Keiver and of course, the Reindicks, are all in contention. With just three days of action left in Antifreeze, it looks like this week will once again solidify itself as one of the most memorable in my university experience.
Photograph taken from Flickr, found here.