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Alum slackliners trick their way to the top

Slackliner Melissa Bowe '11 had a prolific November. She captured first place at the Gibbon Games East International Slacklining Competition in Boston, and won first place at the online Queen of Slackline competition, beating out over 70 other female competitors.

Accompanying Bowe was fellow classmate Kyle Cackett '11 MS'12, who placed in the top eight in the men's division at the Gibbons games and also participated in the King of Slacklining competition.

Slacklining involves people doing tricks while walking across a one-inch, untaut rope suspended between two points.

The Queen and King of Slacklining competitions were held online. Tricks were posted each week, and competitors were required to make videos of themselves performing each feat.

Bowe was the last remaining female competitor who successfully completed every trick.

In the Gibbon Games competition, Bowe beat out eight other domestic and international female competitors, including then-women's world champion Ellie Schulte. Cackett placed in the top eight of 24 male competitors.

In selecting the best slackliner, judges looked at technique, difficulty and excitement level of each trick, said Hannah Varner '14, current president of Brown's slacklining club.

Varner and other members of the slacklining club went to cheer on Bowe and Cackett. "The crowd was definitely very into it," she said. "It was very neat to watch."

While at Brown, Bowe was an active participant in the club. "Mel was always inclusive of people," Varner said.

Bowe said she began learning the sport after seeing Cackett practicing on the Main Green. It took merely a year for her to arrive at where she is, Varner said, and it was a "shocking realization to see how good she is compared to everyone else."

"Through the course of the semester, she has increased the difficulty of what she's doing by so much," she added.

After such rapid development, Bowe has devoted herself to slacklining, Varner said. Both Bowe and Cackett work for Gibbon part-time. Independently, they both travel and participate in slacklining events throughout the nation.

Bowe said she used to do gymnastics at Brown but eventually dropped it. After that, slacklining was "filling in the gaps" that gymnastics used to occupy.

Cackett said he first started slacklining after seeing people practicing on the Main Green, and began watching YouTube videos to teach himself the sport. With a number of people interested in slacklining around campus, Cackett founded Brown's club in fall 2010.

The club stands apart because it is one of the largest slacklining gatherings in the Northeast, Cackett said.

"It's unique in terms of how we organize it and how people come together to do it," Varner said. "I don't think a lot of places have groups that do it."

"Slacklining is like acrobatic work," she added. "You can work to do very neat things. You can always want to do more twists and spins and flips, spirals and lots of tricks."

In the future, Bowe and Cackett plan to keep twisting and spinning their way to the top.




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