Top Chicagoland teens compete in LG U.S. National Texting Championship
If you’ve ever opened a phone bill to find that your little texting fiend has racked up astronomical fees, just think of how Alyssa Podwell's and Rachel Armstrong's parents feel. The 18-year-old Homer Glen and Park Ridge natives (respectively) are two of 11 finalists—of more than 100,000 entrants—vying for a $50,000 grand prize in the ulimate thumb wars, the sixth annual LG U.S. National Texting Championship.
The final event will be held live in New York's Times Square Wednesday, August 8, and while anticipation grows for the two competitors, Armstrong maintains a zenlike calm, despite having to perform before her largest audience to date. "Whatever happens, happens," she says. Podwell, however, is used to big crowds; she's a ball girl for the Chicago Cubs and an accomplished volleyball player. The finalists will face off against 2011 champ, Austin Wiershcke, who last year was presented with his sizable prize check by High School Musical star Ashley Tisdale.
For the texters' family and friends, the idea of the teens taking a trip to NYC for a texting competition—and the possibility of coming home $50,000 richer—seemed too good to be true. "My friends thought it was kind of nerdy to go to New York City for a texting competition or maybe a scam," Podwell says. Of course, the championship is no scam, and both competitors have been exercising their nimble fingers to prep for the big day.
The acronym-strewn road to the finals for these avid texters included at least 500 messages a day for Podwell, while Armstrong says she sends nearly 1,000—sneaking texts during the school day under her desk or in her backpack. But the competition may test for more than just speed and accuracy. The girls have to be prepared for a variety of wacky challenges, like texting blindfolded or using "text talk" abbreviations like LOL (laugh out loud), TTYL (talk to you later) or LGSTL (let’s get some tacos later). Okay, we made the last one up.
The finalists received a free LG Optimus Zip by Straight Talk smartphone for the competition, and Powdell has been practicing both the touch screen and keyboard options. She even asked her friends to send her goofy phrases to help her improve her speed. Armstrong looked up the fastest text in the Guinness World Records (GWR) to set a goal for her times.
According to GWR, Melissa Thompson of the United Kingdom holds the current record for the fastest SMS text message using a touch-screen mobile phone. She typed, "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human." in just 25.94 seconds.
Both texting titans will be college newbies in just a few short weeks. Because Powdell received a full-ride to Chicago State University on a volleyball scholarship, she would put the prize money toward her brother's education. A family vacay would be nice too, she says. Armstrong, who plans to study fashion design at the Illinois Institute of Art, would use the grand prize winnings to start her own boutique.
In addition to crowning the nation's best texter, the competition will also highlight LG's partnership with Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying: Speak Up campaign. By texting “Join LG” to 27777, LG will give $1 to fund anti-bullying tool kits. The kits will be distributed to middle and high school across the U.S. to start conversations on how to prevent bulling.
With only hours to go, it's game on—or should we say phones on—for Podwell, Armstrong, and their fierce competitors. Good luck, and may the best texter win. Let’s hope their parents have unlimited data plans.