MOMENTUM OF THE MOMENTRookie season is a rocket rideHAWK OWLS LEAD ESPORTS DEVELOPMENT IN REGION OVERWATCH TEAM MEMBERS FROM LEFT, BACK ROW: SIMON WELLINGTON, HUNT, GARRETT COAN, COACH MIKE CULP; FRONT ROW MEG ALBU AND WARNER. Esports at NMC is less than a year old, but varsity team advisor Terri Gustafson already has become a sort of regional guru, with regional schools regularly reaching out about how to start their own teams.Though brief, Gustafson and the Hawk Owls’ track record is enviable: In its first semester, one of the two teams, Rocket League, made it into divisional playoffs. All student athletes get $500 scholarships per semester. This semester, Gustafson plans to add a third team, which will share the Esports lab in the West Hall Innovation Center that “blows away” visiting students.“Not bad for a rookie program,” Gustafson said. “The varsity aspect of it has really taken off.”Electrical engineering transfer student Jordan Hunt says being on the Overwatch team benefits his overall well-being.“The scholarship alleviates the need to work so many hours,” said Hunt, 24. “It’s been a good way to connect with others on campus.”ENGINEERING TRANSFER STUDENT JORDAN HUNT, LEFT, AND COMPUTER INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY STUDENT KYLE WARNER, RIGHT, PLAY OVERWATCH IN NMC’S ESPORTS LAB. Kyle Warner, a Computer Information Technology student from Cadillac who takes most of his classes online, agreed. “If not for this program I probably wouldn’t have met a single student,” he said.That feeling isn’t simply sentimental. It’s key to students persisting semester to semester, and completing their degree.“I think it’s really helped them have a sense of belonging and community, and we know how important that is to keeping them here,” Gustafson said.