HAMMOND | After 17 years, John Tomera decided to go back to school. Ten years after that, Tomera still revels like a college student every "Black Wednesday."
"The company I worked for had expanded into Mexico," the Highland resident said. "They needed me to learn Spanish to improve our communications over the border, so I took a class at Purdue Calumet."
That was in 2003. While enrolled, Tomera -- an avid dart player -- joined PUC's intramural dart league.
"It was a Wednesday night fall semester league," PUC intramural director Matt Dudzik said, "and one of the final weeks fell on Black Wednesday [the day before Thanksgiving]."
Due to growth of PUC's intramural program, the fall league was scrapped after a single semester to open up more nights for other activities.
"But since the Black Wednesday night was so popular and a great way to hang out together before the holidays, we decided to keep holding Black Wednesday Dart Tournaments," Dudzik said.
The tournament has been held at various regional taverns. Flat Rock Tap in Hammond was the site for the 10th-annual event on Nov. 27.
"It's become a tradition," tournament director Nick Kalwinski said. "It's no longer part of the intramural program, and you don't have to be a Purdue Calumet student to participate.
"But many of the players here are former students."
One former student is Adam Taylor, who now works in PUC's fitness center.
"We don't get to see each other as much as we used to," said Taylor, 29, of Whiting. "This is a great night to catch up on things."
One of the original members of the intramural league and a regular Black Wednesday Tournament participant was Jennie Hamilton, a PUC student who died in a cycling accident in 2006 while training for an Ironman triathlon.
"Proceeds from the entry fees go to the Jennie Hamilton Memorial Fitness Major Scholarship," Kalwinski said of Hamilton, who was studying to get into the health and fitness field.
"(It) initially began as a way for friends to get together for an evening of fun and to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. After Jennie passed away, the night took on an additional and very heartfelt reason."
The tournament's format has two-person teams (blindly drawn) square off in rounds of 301, 501 and cricket on electronic dart boards.
"We have cricket for the final round," Dudzik said. "You can get a little lucky in 301 or 501, but usually the better team wins at cricket."
This year's winning team was Mike Hufnagel and Mike Williamson.
Among those players with multiple Black Wednesday titles include Kalwinski and Tomera, the latter of whom teamed up for Phil Baranko to win last year.
"It's hard to believe it's been 10 years already," Tomera said. "Time moves faster as you get older, that's why among these guys it moves fastest for me."