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West Ranch High finds a (guitar) hero

Posted: September 30, 2008 8:24 p.m.
Updated: December 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Nathan Gomez, left, focuses intently on his screen as he nails a flurry of notes during his solo. Gomez lost by an extremely thin margin to his opponent, Justin Law, in the West Ranch High School Guitar Hero competition.

The third installment of Activision's ubiquitous guitar game, Guitar Hero, stole the spotlight at West Ranch High School as the school kicked off the inaugural games for its second annual Guitar Hero tournament.

Thomas Grossman and Matt Muir organized this event both years and take a great deal of pride in doing so. As they wish for only the best players to enter the tournament, all games will be played on the notoriously difficult "Expert" level, at which only the fastest fingers and sharpest reflexes can survive.

Grossman thought last year's champion, Mike Clark, is the favorite.

"Mike Clark has a good chance to win it all again, but there are a lot of new, really good people entering," Grossman said. "I really don't know how it will turn out this time."

The competitors are playing not only for a material prize, but also for fame and recognition of their guitar prowess.

Justin Law and Nathan Gomez started the tournament off with a bang, playing "Hier Kommt Alex" by Die Toten Hosen. Both players faced a torrent of green, red, yellow, blue, and orange notes and remained neck-and-neck throughout the first half of the song.

Law managed to eke out just a few more notes in the solo and set the pace for the rest of the game, winning by a narrow margin of 12,000 points. Gomez took the loss in high spirits, and his skillful efforts were met with rounds of applause.

In the next round, Kirill Lipa was set to compete against Sean Jamadau.

"I don't practice a lot," Lipa said. "It's just something I've always been good at."

However, Lipa's opponent, Sean Jamadau, failed to show up in time, resulting in Lipa's automatic advancement to the next round.

To pass the time, he called out Nate King to a friendly match, to which King happily obliged, and the two agreed upon "The Way It Ends" by Prototype.

"I did practice a bit before I came here. I own all three (games), so I hope my experience helps me out," King said. After gaining an early advantage in the opening chords, Lipa powered through scales and some very fast strums while King attempted to make up for earlier mistakes. During the nightmarish solo, Lipa wisely chose to use his "Star Power" when a throng of notes came his way, earning an eightfold bonus on every note he hit, thus widening the gap between the two even further.
Lipa came out on top with a staggering 200,000-point lead, but no hard feelings were present. It was just a practice game.

Lipa's flourish of innate talent put him on top after the first day of the competition, and with the skill he's shown so far, it certainly seems possible for him to win it all. The tone was set by these first games for two weeks of crunching power chords and sizzling-hot solos, all leading up to the finals on Oct. 8, when the two remaining competitors will battle for supremacy over the hardest song in the game, "Through the Fire and the Flames" by DragonForce, which boasts a menacing 3,722 notes at 26.67 notes per second.

Michael Nam is a junior at West Ranch High School.


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