LAKE FOREST — When it arrives in this usually quiet, sleepy town, springtime tends to be a chaotic time, especially for seniors attending Lake Forest High School. It’s filled with sports, studying for finals and AP tests, and getting plans together for college.
However, as Sun Tzu says in the Art of War, “In the midst of chaos, there is opportunity.”
Above the front entrance of LFHS is inscribed the Latin translation of the school’s motto: Abuent Studia in Mores. In English, this roughly translates into, “They Leave, Striving After Morality.”
This message is carried out in many ways by the school, pushing students to look after their neighbor, care about them and really want the best for them. It highlights bringing our fellow students together rather than driving them apart with competition, making them more compassionate and kind members of their community.
This is exactly why the ‘game’ of Paranoia is taking place anywhere but Lake Forest High School. Once the senior class leaves the premises at 3:20 on Friday morality will be the last thing on their mind.
“The whole idea is to eliminate the enemy team,” organizer Senior Zeyad Alam said. “If you’re eliminated, you’re out for the week, and your team gets points for every elimination. At the end, the team with the most points wins.”
By eliminate, Alam means hit a member of the other team with a foam dart, fired from one of the many Nerf blasters that students have undoubtedly purchased in the past few weeks as part of the arms race leading up to this Friday.
This isn’t the first year that Paranoia has made its way to LFHS, but Alam admits that it’s the highest participation level he’s seen. He recalled he didn’t expect what was to come when Victor Kolcan, the coordinator of Paranoia last year, tasked him with putting it together for this spring, almost as a passing of the torch. “It’s a tradition,” Alam added.
But with great power comes great responsibility, according to Alam.
“I’d really like for everyone to have a fun time,” Alam smiled, but then paused and added, “but everyone has their own idea, and coming to a compromise has been difficult. Some people wanted to play specific teams… we don’t have enough weeks for everyone to play each other. I’m going to pair people up with teams they want to play.”
While Alam has faith in his planning abilities, the confidence in his own team is not riding as high. “I don’t think my team’s going to put much effort into it,” Alam reluctantly predicted.
Just because Alam doesn’t believe his team is going to take home the gold, he gave his expert opinion on who he thought had the best chance. “I think Aidan’s team is looking real good right now,” Alam said after some thought. “(He has) good draft picks; I think they’re goin’ all the way. That’s what the top of my bracket looks like right now at least.”
Alam is not alone in his worries. Many team captains share his doubt in their teams. However, the range of each captain’s confidence hits pretty much every end of the spectrum.
On one end are the self-described “underdogs,” those who aren’t holding themselves to very high expectations but are hopeful for the best.
“We really had to convince our team to play,” senior Ashley Alghini said, “but maybe we’ll pull through in the end… I’m hoping everyone will stick with playing.”
Then there are those who are reasonably optimistic, but still believe in their team to an extent. Senior Clare Bradley rated her confidence level “definitely above average,” but also joked, “I think we’re gonna do really well in the beginning and lose motivation later on.”
Senior Sam Randall has the same sentiment, saying “we’re solid, but we’re in it more for the fun than the competition.”
Senior Sophia Bienkowski is fully aware of the vast majority that are in it for the competition alone, with fun completely out of the equation. “I think we’re pretty confident,” Bienkowski said, then added, “that might be a mistake.”
This is because the other extreme end of the spectrum is where most of the remaining teams lie: full devotion, on the clock 24/7.
Senior Ethan Kurian has no trouble stating his “high confidence,” saying, “I think we’ll win the whole thing. We got some winners.”
In fact, almost every team you ask believes they will be the ones who will come out on top.
“I feel very confident in the team and the strength of each individual player,” Senior Nolan Petzer declared, “[We’re] gonna go off, catch some big time bodies.”
“I think we’re gonna wipe the competition,” Senior Max Shultz asserted, before describing in grim detail his plans for destroying the enemy. However, it seems for some teams that maintaining that kind of determination might be difficult, as Shultz quickly began backpedalling, remarking “we give up really easy so honestly… with any hardship we immediately quit.”
Teams are already beginning to build strategies for victory, which range from sheer firepower to well thought-out intimidation tactics.
Senior Kyle Mendelson is one of these people, assuring, “easy dubs everywhere. We’re very well prepared, got a good game plan.”
However, Mendelson’s calculated ‘game plans’ have yet to be proven, and mostly include “a truck with like a flatbed where we can just hang out the back.”
Senior Charlie Anderson gave a different strategy when asked how he thinks he’s going to win: “Our goal is to take out the strongest link first, and leave the weakest one for last,” Anderson explained.
However, Anderson’s fellow teammate Senior Jake Fisher stopped him, interjecting, “that’s just not gonna happen… we’ll go with no comment on that.”
“We’re just here to have fun,” Anderson continued, then added, “and win.”
Fisher noted that he believes sticking with his team will be the best path to victory.
Zeyad Alam shares this point of view, advising the competitors, “I’d say stick with your teams. Don’t stray off on your own or you’ll get got.”
Paranoia has its name for a reason, and the upcoming competition has got many people watching their backs.
Senior Katie Stovold remarked that she’ll actually be the most afraid of her close friends in the following weeks, because they know where she lives. “That’s what I’m most concerned about,” Stovold said.
Peculiarly, the same name is seeming to be circulating around the senior class, the name being more of a spectre, some even reporting they hear it in the wind. When asked who she was most intimidated by, who she saw as the greatest threat, Senior Cristina Machado didn’t miss a beat before uttering, “Henry Feingold.”
Charlie Anderson shared this fear, saying, “The kid’s a maniac. That’s all I gotta say.”
Anderson then avoided any further questioning, checking his back nervously.
Feingold himself isn’t giving much comfort to those afraid of him. “Jesus can’t save you,” he said, shaking his head.
He says he’s willing to take a whole team out by himself if he has to, and that victory is inevitable. “I just know,” Feingold said, “It’s like I was chosen by God.”
Senior class president JD O’Keane thinks a bit differently. “I’m going in confident, ten out of ten,” O’Keane boasted, “We’re not scared… I mean, were gonna just hit em hard, catch em off guard… if I get up against you, get ready. I’m not going to stop.”
The best words of advice for the nearly 300 competing seniors comes from Henry Feingold’s final words before he dissolved back into the shadows:
This story was originally published on The Forest Scout on April 13, 2019.