Nine-year-old Grace Arnold took home the first place trophy for the Junior Division at the 2010 Southeast Regional Pokémon Video Game Championships. Her 13-year-old brother David won the Senior Division. Their father came in second.
If just one of the Arnolds place in the Nationals, it would mean the family's third trip to the World Championships.
A 44-year-old vice president of operations at a financial company, father Glen Arnold first heard about the Pokémon Video Game Championships from a Kotaku post two years ago. At that first event, young Grace won a spot in the World Championships in Orlando, Florida.
The next year, David won the Junior Division Championship in Nashville, Tennessee.
Grace actually qualified for the Nationals at the Seattle event earlier this year, but her brothers wanted another shot, and their parents were willing to make the trip.
The competition at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia, was fierce. The Junior Division saw 278 entrants; the Senior Division had 651. The Southeast Regional Championship was the second-largest event in the 2010 circuit, and the odds of winning were slim.
And now two members of the family bring brand-new Nintendo DSi systems to the Nationals in Indianapolis at the end of this month.
How does one family get so good? According to father Glen, it's all about practice, as long as it isn't on school days. "We practice on weekends during the school year," Glen said. "Though that doesn't stop me from staying up late every night, coming up with new teams for the kids to battle."
So far the kids have triumphed over every team their father has thrown against them. According to David, he and his champion sister are evenly matched, though he usually beats his dad.
And that was exactly what happened during the final round of the Southwestern Regionals, when father went up against son for the top spot in the Senior Division. Glen put up a good fight, but David came out on top.
Mother Linda was a regular presence at the exit point of the tournament floor. She plays the game as well, but doesn't compete, explaining that "Someone has to be there for them when they come off the floor."
I asked her why the family spent so much time traveling across the country in order to compete in a video game competition.
"The kids enjoy it. They get to travel and go places, meeting new people. And it's a bonding experience," she told me.
During some downtime between rounds, I observed the Arnolds gathered in one of the convention center's hallways, sitting on the floor together, consoling son Ryan, the only competing member of the tribe who didn't walk away a winner on Saturday. It was a touching moment that what a strong, supportive, and close family this team of Pokémon champions really is.
I wouldn't worry about Ryan. With a family like that behind him, it's only a matter of time before he takes home a championship trophy. All he needs to do is follow the advice of his brother, David.
"Train hard, and if you mess up very badly, just make sure you practice enough and have fun."