HU four square game goes from routine to record-breaking

Four Huntington University students play a game of four square in the Baker/Roush Hall lounge on campus on Friday, Jan. 24, in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest marathon playing four square.
Four Huntington University students play a game of four square in the Baker/Roush Hall lounge on campus on Friday, Jan. 24, in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest marathon playing four square. Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published Jan. 30, 2014.

Playing the game four square is a routine for second floor residents of Baker Hall at Huntington University.

The game is played on a square court divided into four sections, with a number from 1 through 4 assigned to each section. A player eliminates others by striking a ball into one of the three sections unoccupied by them in an effort to cause an error. When a player is eliminated, the other players move up to the next highest square with the goal of advancing to, or maintaining possession of, the highest square.

Brooks Hooley, a senior at the school, says he and fellow Baker residents play the game 15 minutes every night before dinner.

After denizens of Baker attempted and failed to break the Guinness World Record for longest marathon playing four square of 29 hours in 2009, there has been talk on the floor ever since about giving it another go.
"This year we got to talking about it and said, ‘We should stop talking about it and just do it,'" states Hooley. "And so we decided, ‘OK, we're doing it.'"

So, after six days of making preparations, Hooley, along with senior Matt Whitney, juniors Stephen Crane and Paul Monroe, sophomores Austin Flores and Derek Zurcher and freshman Brett Smith, started playing four square in the Baker/Roush Hall lounge on Friday, Jan. 24, at 10 a.m..

And the group didn't stop until 7:10 p.m. the next day. In all, they played for 31 hours, beating the record.
But getting there wasn't easy.

In order for Guinness to recognize the attempt, Hooley says a variety of things needed to be done.

"Usually we just line up and play, but the court had to be 15-feet by 16-feet, the ball had to be eight inches in diameter and filled to exactly two PSI. We had to maintain the order of players in line. Our time had to be accurate to the 100th of a second," he explains. "So, it was pretty meticulous."

Also, two witnesses had to be present at all times, a timekeeper had to be on the premises throughout the attempt and a person needed to maintain video cameras that would document the effort from beginning to end.
Though the attempt started off promising, doubt slowly crept into the minds of the group members.

"We played through six straight hours to start out and then we took a 10-minute break," says Hooley. "But it wasn't until, for me, personally, it wasn't until around 2 a.m. Saturday morning where I thought, ‘OK, what are we doing here?'

"And as it wore on, everybody was just like, ‘Why are we doing this? We hate this game right now.' And then at the very end, myself, along with a couple of other guys, said it didn't feel like we were playing four square any more. We didn't know what we were doing the last couple of hours."

"We were just waiting for 6 a.m. when we got a really long break," adds Whitney. "And it was just like, ‘Oh, my gosh.' That's probably the most pain I've ever been in, in my life."

Prior to the attempt, Whitney says the group had never played four square for more than five hours. As a result, he and Hooley both say the group was unprepared for the physical strain of playing for over 30 hours.

"Right around 11 p.m. Friday night, from the knees down, I was done," admits Hooley. "My calves were screaming. Whatever arch in my foot that I had was gone and it's still gone.

"I don't think I'm ever going to get it back."

Adhering to the strict Guinness rules added even more pressure on the students. Four players had to be on the four square court at all times, while the three other players had to be in a specific order in line just off the court to take over for the next player that was eliminated from the game.

"We couldn't step out of line to do anything," explains Whitney. "If we wanted some food and it was 10 feet away, we had to make sure we asked someone to come bring it to us, because we had to stay in line."

If a player stepped out of line, or if their order got mixed up and the wrong person stepped on to the court, it meant disqualification for the entire attempt.

The students took a series of breaks during the effort. Their longest rest period was 50 minutes while others ranged from five to 15 minutes. The timing, like everything else, had to be precise.

"We'd take a 10-minute break and we had to start, on the dot, 10 minutes later," says Whitney. "If we started two seconds later, we would be disqualified. So, we'd have to make sure everyone was there 30 seconds ahead, ready to go, and that everything had to be exact, all the time, down to the 100th of a second."

The groups' pairs of witnesses worked four-hour shifts before being relieved. Though the witnesses sometimes added to the groups' stress level, almost showing up late or contacting it with doubts about their ability to be there, Hooley and Whitney agree that the witnesses and support staff are the reason the attempt was successful.

"Every group of witnesses helped in their own special way," says Hooley.

Hooley relates that Huntington University President Dr. Sherilyn Emberton, who witnessed from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., was like a "high school football coach" in terms of intensity level, and that Julie Hendryx, who was present from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., was comparable to the "Energizer bunny" with high energy and a variety of trivia questions on hand that she asked the group to keep them alert.

Whitney singles out camera operator Nathan Bowen and timekeeper Nathaniel Cave for their efforts. Bowen was in charge of making sure that every second of the attempt was documented, while Cave was tasked with overseeing the logbook, which enclosed statements from witnesses and a detailed time sheet that he maintained.
Hooley and Whitney also praise anyone who brought the group food or just showed up to cheer them on, which came in particularly handy when the attempt entered the homestretch.

"The last hour we had a pretty good crowd watching us," says Hooley. "So, it kind of gave us an adrenaline boost."

While the group has bested the standing Guinness World Record of 29 hours for longest four square marathon, it will not hold the record officially until its documentation has been reviewed by Guinness. Among the materials in the package to be mailed out to Guinness will be a series of DVDs containing all footage captured during the event in strict chronological order, a press release, witness statements and photographs documenting the size of the court and the PSI of the ball.

Once the package is mailed, Whitney estimates that it will be several months before the group hears back from Guinness.

"But I'm pretty confident that it'll end up turning out good," he says.

As for members of the group, they're currently finding out that while the attempt may have affected them mentally and physically, their enthusiasm for four square remains untouched.

"You know, it's strange," Hooley begins. "When I woke up yesterday and it got to be around dinner time, I said, ‘I can't believe I'm saying this to myself, but I actually want to play some four square right now.'"

But then he thought better of it.

"And I said to myself, ‘Dude, you're an idiot! You just played for 31 hours. You need to rest.'"

Complete caption: Four Huntington University students play a game of four square in the Baker/Roush Hall lounge on campus on Friday, Jan. 24, in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest marathon playing four square. In all, seven students participated in the marathon, and on Saturday night, Jan. 25, the group broke the standing record of 29 hours by playing for 31 hours straight.