By Anna Paladini

Last year on a hot October day, Wildcats from across campus came together on Yolo Field with one goal in mind: Set a new world record for the largest game of cornhole in history. With the previous record set at 384 persons playing simultaneously, according to Guinness Book of World Records, achieving that dream would only take some planning and Wildcat spirit. 

The idea came six months prior, in April 2019 when a supercell thunderstorm hit Chico and flooded several University buildings. Water entered the Wildcat Recreation Center (WREC) through its emergency doors, flooding and destroying most of its basketball courts.

“Once it was determined that the floor needed to be replaced, I knew we had an opportunity not only to create the boards but to also have a unique event for Chico State students.” said Director Curtis Sicheneder, who had recently attended a fundraiser where they auctioned off cornhole boards.

The WREC, in partnership with Chico State Recreational Sports, began working with Facility Management and Services (FMS) to turn the damaged basketball court into 100 shiny, new sets of cornhole boards and added the tournament to the WREC’s 10-year anniversary celebration.

WREC-branded bean bags lay on a corn hole board in the sun.
“FMS was able to utilize the various basketball lines in the boards as a distinctive accent and also branded them with the WREC and Associated Students logos,” Sicheneder said. “Not only did [they] take on a large commitment, but the quality of what they produced was just outstanding.”

When it came time for the big event, hundreds of students, staff, faculty and alumni were involved—in the end, 398 Wildcats participated in Chico State’s Cornhole Tournament—topping the previous known record by 14 participants!

On the fields outside Yolo Hall, students competed in a single elimination, bracket-style tournament. Over 200 teams had preregistered for the tournament for a chance to win a pair of cornhole boards. For hours, bags flew through the air, landed with steady thunks, and slid around the boards. Even University President Gayle Hutchinson tossed a few bags. And when the day was done, students Gavin Lawrence and Jonny Nguyen took home the gold, besting dozens of other competitors with their aim and skills. 

“I remember it being so warm that day,” said Marisa Markword, a senior at the time. “But super fun. I liked the whole atmosphere. Everyone was having a great time, it really felt like the whole college experience. Like what you see in movies.”

Markword, who graduated with her communication design degree this May, worked on the event as a student graphic designer and participated in the tournament with her roommates.

“I was happy to see it all come together,” she said.

2019–20 AS President Trevor Guthrie also raved about the tournament and what took place behind the scenes.

“The cornhole event was an incredible way to turn the unfortunate flooding of the WREC into a community event for Chico State,” Guthrie shared. “Even better, we were able to give back to our students for their enjoyment.”

For months, the University waited for word on whether its attempt would land Chico State in the record books. Unfortunately, another group’s unknown attempt in June 2019 was still in the process of receiving final recognition from Guinness and ultimately topped Chico State’s number of participants.

“I would have loved for the campus to have [received] the world record title,”  Sicheneder said. “But, I think we can say that we broke the record—the record at the time.”

A distanced view show dozens of teams playing corn hole on the Yolo Hall field.
Regardless of the outcome, the tournament itself was a success, as it was a fun-filled day in the sun with a little friendly competition among Wildcats.

No matter what, he still sees it as a win.

“How many 400-person student events are held on campus? This was a unique student event in terms of the number of student participants, in terms of wellness, and terms of sustainability!” he said.

The basketball court boards, which are finished floor panels produced with lacquers and sealants, cannot be recycled normally, and would have been destined for the landfill. Repurposing the court, which was paid for in 2009 through student fees accrued by the Associated Students, allowed the organization to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and innovation.

“Once the event was complete, any student, whether they played in the event or not, could submit their name to win a set of boards and bags via raffle,” said Sicheneder. “Students paid for the original floor with their fees; it was only right that current students got to have the boards at the end of the event.”

So even though the event won’t live on as a record, it will have a lasting memory—and serve as a piece of history—for those who won the boards.

Anna Paladini (Journalism, ’16) is the marketing manager for the Associated Students—and was happy to be among those who made the record-breaking attempt.