The Eighth Man

The Boys and Girls of Summer: Margo Aleman

Nicole Harrig

The Boys and Girls of Summer is a new series featuring less heralded players making names for themselves over the course of the fantasy season. We start with the recently crowned West Fantasy MVP, Margo Aleman.

In the quidditch community, it is farfetched to imagine an elite seeker remaining more or less unknown for nearly an entire season. For an elite seeker on a World Cup winning team, it would seem almost impossible. Throw in the looks of a model and above-average chasing ability, and you might start believing this person couldn’t even exist.

And yet that is exactly what Margo Aleman has done over the last 10 months. He burst onto the scene as a member of the University of Texas – Austin squad in the fall, but managed to remain almost completely out of the national conscience until World Cup. And even then, many people believed it was just Kenny Chilton making all of the Longhorns’ snitch grabs.

But this slow discovery story isn’t just the story of Aleman, it’s also a story of the Texas quidditch program, and really all major quidditch programs, and what keeps them ticking, year after year. Because while this may have been Aleman’s first season with the schools’ first team, he’s been playing quidditch for four years, starting out in the Longhorn’s club system and getting his first taste of competitive quidditch years ago as part of a merc team of UT system players that traveled to a tournament at Texas Tech, the same tournament at which Kody Marshall debuted.

However, Aleman’s route to quidditch notoriety would be nowhere near as direct as Marshall’s. After failing to make the team for the 2012-13 season, Aleman played much of the year for Austin Quidditch. It was only then that he truly dedicated himself to the sport, a desire to improve that has carried all the way through to this summer.

Aleman finally joined the Longhorns for the 2013-14 season. But even this season, as he has for much of his career, he saved the best for last. After Texas breezed through bracket play and took down Austin Quiddtich in the Round of 32, Texas faced a murderer’s row of opposition the rest of the way: No. 10 Maryland, No. 6 Baylor, No. 2 Texas A&M and No. 5 Texas State. And while it would be unfair, and untrue, to say that the Longhorns didn’t outplay each of these teams, there were still three SWIM situations across the four games, three situations where a lesser seeker could have spelt the end of the team’s championship run before it ever began. Aleman didn’t flinch, scoring winning grabs over Maryland and Texas A&M before catching the snitch that defeated Texas State and made Texas back-to-back champions.

From there, Aleman was off and running, signing up for three of the sport’s four major summer fantasy tournaments. At Midwest Fantasy, he was a second round pick for Daniel Shapiro, and repaid him with a 3-1 SWIM record and a trip to the semifinals, where his streak in SWIM situations was broken by Ball State’s Blake Fitzgerald. But even more impressive than his number of catches was how quickly he was coming away with them, making most grabs in under a minute.

Undeterred by his semifinal disappointment in the Midwest, Aleman traveled to West Fantasy, where he was a 290 galleon pick for Michael Binger. He quickly proved the pick worthwhile, dragging the team kicking and screaming to the semifinals with impressive chasing and another 3-1 SWIM record, including a two-grab game in pool play. For his efforts, Aleman was awarded the MVP of West Fantasy.

Add it all together, and it comes out to a 9-2 SWIM record in competitive play over the last four months, with a World Cup Championship and a West Fantasy MVP award to his credit as well.

So how does he do it? Well, Aleman’s go-to technique at seeker is both simple and refined. Take a look at this video, which includes two of his World Cup grabs:

In both catches, Aleman dekes with his right arm before throwing his left arm around the back of the snitch. At least, that’s all that’s noticeable at normal speed. Because, in actuality, the right arm deke contains the slightest of arm grabs, just enough to reduce the snitches ability to move backwards. It’s why in both grabs you see the snitch end up spinning rather than backing up: he’s attempting to, but one side of his body is being held in place.

Arm Grab 1

Could you say that the move borders on illegal? Probably. But almost every snitch grab in quidditch does, and something so minute is never going to get called. It’s an incredibly effective move not only because it’s tough to defend against but because it can be pulled out while charging, approaching, or grappling with the snitch. This allows Aleman to end games out of nowhere, especially against snitches that aren’t experienced in playing against him.

Unfortunately for the Longhorns, Aleman’s impressive season with the team was also his only, as he graduated at the end of the season. No one seems to be sure what Aleman’s plans are for the fall, but any team lucky enough to have him would gain one of the game’s top five seekers. But the new season is still over a month away, and with Southwest Fantasy still to come, the summer of Aleman is far from over. So let’s all just enjoy the ride.

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