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In the Game of Tag, This Terp’s ‘It’

Alum to Compete in World Championship of Parkour-Style Sport

By Annie Krakower

Team APK Blue poses

Matthew Wachtman ’18 (far right and below) and his team, APK Blue, are competing this weekend in the World Chase Tag World Championship in France. The sport is a combination of the classic childhood game of tag and the obstacle-traversing athletic discipline of parkour.

Photos courtesy of APK Blue

Even for the slipperiest student on the playground or the most inescapable “it,” the prospect of going pro in tag probably seems like little more than a gym class hero’s daydream. But a University of Maryland alum has taken his talents from the schoolyard to the world stage, with a twist—or maybe a backflip.

Matthew Wachtman ’18 and his team, APK Blue, are chasing glory in this weekend’s world championships of World Chase Tag, which bills itself as “the first and only global league for competitive tag.” The international competition of the growing sport—a combination of the classic childhood game and the obstacle-traversing athletic discipline of parkour—will pit 16 teams against each other over three days at an arena in the Paris suburbs.

“I always have my mind open to looking for different ideas, different movement opportunities,” Wachtman said. “It’s a really new sport, so I’m like, ‘Let’s experiment.’”

Matthew Wachtman dives to tag opponent

After participating in martial arts throughout grade school, Wachtman learned about parkour from his older brother, who was “nerdy enough to find parkour videos before YouTube was a thing” and was in a club for the extreme sport at Virginia Tech. That helped inspire Wachtman to later become president of UMD’s own club as he studied kinesiology.

He discovered a campus full of nooks and crannies perfect for leaps and bounds. After riding his bike around one night, he marked all the best spots on a map: the staircase to the right of the Stamp Student Union, the ramp outside Glenn L. Martin Hall, the railings near the Physical Sciences Complex. Although flipping over concrete and off metal bars might seem like an invitation for injury, he’s rarely suffered more than the occasional ankle sprain.

“It is objectively dangerous stuff, but if you have the right approach, the right steps and instruction, then it can be a lot safer,” Wachtman said. “Pretty much everybody can do more than they think they can.”

That experience came in handy when American Parkour, an organization that promotes and teaches the sport, sent emails in 2020 seeking interest in an up-and-coming parkour-tag combo. World Chase Tag—founded in the United Kingdom in 2012, with its first U.S. championships in 2020—involves two six-member teams facing off on the quad, a 12-by-12-meter obstacle-filled playing area. A chaser from one team has 20 seconds to catch an evader from the other as they dive around corners, lunge off ramps and hurl themselves around railings. Teams earn a point for every successful evasion in best-of-16 matches, with the action garnering more than 300 million views on YouTube and TV networks around the world, including ESPN.

Wachtman submitted a video and earned a spot on American Parkour’s team, APK Blue. Teammates are scattered from northern Virginia, where he lives, to Indianapolis to Cincinnati. While they occasionally meet to train together on a quad, Wachtman, who balances the high-speed hijinks with physical therapy studies at Marymount University, stays in shape in the meantime by weightlifting and doing sprinting drills.

“He’s just extremely impressive as an athlete,” said APK Blue team captain Mark Bowles. “He’s a specimen—he’s fast, he’s strong, he’s springy, and he’s extremely intelligent in how he uses tactics on the quad.”

Last spring, the team earned its first world championship berth by placing third in the inaugural World Chase Tag Pan America—thanks in large part to Wachtman. Thirteen chases into the match, with the score still knotted at zero, he nimbly threw himself through bars and scampered over hurdles in a dizzying rush, landing the tag on the opposing evader’s back at the quad’s edge with a second to spare. In the following chase, Wachtman, now the evader, lunged into the corner just beyond his opponent’s fingertips as time expired, breaking the scoreless tie.

“One of the most satisfying, cathartic feelings was being in the third-place match and scoring the winning point,” he said.

This weekend’s world championships will be livestreamed on YouTube and across World Chase Tag’s social media channels. Wachtman hopes it’s the first of many global competitions.

“I’m very mobile. I feel like there are things not a lot of people can do that I can do,” he said. “I want to be competitive as long as I can.”

The French team Urban Corps Nano and the American team Hollywood Forerunners won the World Chase Tag world championship.



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