Last one standing: Kyra Xue reprises win at Elimination


Photo courtesy of Kyra Xue

Elimination winner senior Kyra Xue poses with Cocoa, the plushie she used to stay safe during the game.

It’s a seemingly innocuous little thing—beady black eyes, downy brown fur, a mere button of a nose. Yet this bear plushie, dubbed Cocoa, has been instrumental in senior Kyra Xue’s back-to-back victories in Gunn’s annual Elimination competition. “It’s my lucky bear,” Xue said. “I’m definitely going to keep it forever.”

A tamer version of the Hunger Games, Elimination is a game in which Gunn students aim to avoid being “killed” by other participants while taking out as many of their targets as possible in a given period of time—Jan. 27 to Feb. 10 this year. Xue emerged victorious for the second time this year, with a total of 24 eliminations. “Winning last year actually gave me more pressure to do well this year, because I (thought) I obviously have the ability to do well in this game,” she said. 

Cocoa played a major role during the first week of this year’s game, in which players could remain safe from elimination by holding their designated stuffed animal and fulfilling other requirements (such as touching a wall). For Xue, holding on to the little bear, which she also used last year, was an instinct. “Playing defense for me isn’t that hard,” she said. “I’m already so used to it—holding my animal is literally second nature to me.” 

Playing defense for me isn’t that hard. I’m already so used to it—holding my animal is literally second nature to me.

— Elimination winner senior Kyra Xue

In fact, during the early days of the competition, tracking down her targets proved more difficult than staying alive. The sheer number of players, along with the possibility of staying safe through following certain rules, contributed to this phenomenon. In order to track down some of the more elusive targets—mostly underclassmen she was unfamiliar with—Xue utilized all the resources she could. “(One) advantage I actually had this year was having a sister who’s a freshman, so she was able to help me with a couple of my freshman targets,” she said. “(Other) strategies for finding out who people are would just be searching them up online and using Instagram, and using the yearbook.”

As the game progressed, staying safe became gradually harder. By the time the second—and final—week of the competition began, there was no longer any way to avoid elimination. Rather, there were requirements to eliminate others, such as wearing red or sitting down. Xue found herself particularly fortunate in this high-stakes environment. “I got really lucky with the target switches,” she said. “My friend had me for a whole week, and I knew that she wasn’t going to take me out—we were working together. So I was safe during a couple of days where it was a free-for-all.”

Indeed, collaboration proved essential to Xue’s success, both this year and last year. “I worked with the same friend group that helped me last year,” she said. “They actually prioritized my safety and me getting my eliminations more than themselves because they wanted me to have a second win.”

Xue’s single-minded focus on Elimination further secured her victory. She would plan her life around the game, arriving to school early to tag a target or scoping out rooms to eat lunch in safety. On occasion, she would purposefully go to class late to avoid being tagged. “I wasn’t the best student, I have to say, during Elimination,” she said. “I sacrificed a lot of my schoolwork and time to focus on Elimination. But it was worth it for me.” 

It’s this dedication that helped her through the most harrowing moments of the game. Case in point: On Feb. 6, the day of Gunn’s annual TEDx conference, Kyra spotted her current target—and was soon caught in a full-on chase. “I found him walking, and I went up to him, but he noticed me and then he started sprinting away from me—I did not expect him to full-on sprint,” she said. “So I was like, ‘I guess I have to sprint.’”

After following the target to his class, Xue was unable to tag him because the bell had already rung. Still, she waited the entire class period until he emerged to return to TEDx, finally cornering him and tagging him out. For Xue, the experience proved to be a lesson in persistence. “I made sure to stay determined, even if something accidentally went wrong,” she said.  

This willingness to persist despite embarrassment and social anxiety is one of the cornerstones of Elimination, and it’s something Xue finds to be a positive aspect of the game. “(Elimination) is a really great opportunity to meet other people and get out of your comfort zone to tag random people that haven’t talked to you before,” she said. “(Similarly,) don’t be embarrassed to hold your animal above your shoulder or don’t be embarrassed to touch a wall because you got to do what you got to do if you want to stay alive.”

And stay alive she has—Xue emerged from this year’s competition with 24 kills, clinging to life until the bitter end. After two intense weeks of playing, the end of the game has brought with it a mix of emotions. “I do feel kind of relieved that it’s over, just because I spent so much time on it, but it also feels really nice, being able to win this game twice in a row,” she said.