By Olivia Scheck
MIDTOWN WEST — Middlebury College continued a four-year winning streak Sunday, as the International Quidditch Association (IQA) World Cup came to a close in Midtown.
The two-day event, which featured a real-life adaptation of the magical sport "quidditch" from J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series, drew 46 teams, 757 participants and approximately 20,000 spectators. The sport is a kind of flying rugby where fictional players sit astride flying broomsticks — but in the real-life version, players still have broomsticks but no powers of flight.
Event organizer and Manhattan native Alex Benepe, an alumnus of Bronx Science High School and Middlebury College and the son of NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, said the 2010 World Cup was the group's "biggest and best" event yet.
Benepe, 23, celebrated with his alma mater as they took home the championship trophy — a three-foot tall gold statuette with a wizard on top built around a plastic booze bottle and coated in gold spray paint.
Benepe said the sport might be beloved by bookworms, but it's not for the faint of heart. Saturday and Sunday's quidditch matches featured so many high-impact bodyslams over "quaffles" (volleyballs) and "bludgers" (dodgeballs), that 40 participants had to be treated for injuries on Saturday alone.
Adrienne Losch, 20, a junior at Middlebury and a member of the victorious team, credited her team's 100-to-20 victory over Tufts to plenty of experience.
"Quidditich started at Middlebury so we've had time to figure out the winning strategies," said Losch, who said the experience would rank among the highlights of her college career.
While this version of the game, called "muggle quidditch" or "ground quidditch," began with an intramural league at the Vermont college in 2005, it has now spread throughout the country, with more than 400 college and 300 high school teams from 45 states having registered with the IQA, according to the group's website.
Eric Willroth, 20, a junior at Texas A&M said he and more than 20 fellow quidditch enthusiasts flew to New York just for the tournament, buying their own plane tickets and holding fundraisers to cover extra expenses.
But not everyone had so far to travel to attend the games.
Brittney Hagan, 20, and Mellissa Goodfriend, 21, were part of a group of Pace University students who traveled to Midtown to observe the surprisingly rough competition.
"We wanted to create a team for next year," Goodfriend said. "And then we came here and were like, 'We need to start working out!'"
Gabrielle Nurnberger, 22, a recent Rhode Island School of Design graduate who now lives in Brooklyn, said she was surprised by the intensity of Sunday's competition, as she and a friend took in the championship match.
"We were hoping for less athleticism and more nerd-dom," she joked.
Luckily for Nurnberger, there should be plenty of nerd-dom on display come Friday, when part one of the final installment of the Harry Potter film series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," hits theaters in Manhattan.