As the sun set Feb. 8, the conditions outside Central Crossing High School were chilly with a harsh winter wind blowing.

Inside, visitors were warming up with a cup of chili.

In fact, they could warm up with numerous bowls of chili.

The Central Crossing High School Athletic Boosters held its 12th annual chili cook-off, which serves as a major fundraiser for the group.

Each of the school's sports teams participated by serving helpings of their own chili recipe.

"It's a nice, friendly competition," boosters president Cynthia Taylor said. "I think the best thing about the chili cook-off is that it's one of the few times that all of the teams from our school are gathered together in the same room."

The event is always held in conjunction with the senior-night game for the boys' basketball team, she said.

"It's just a great night of Central Crossing school spirit," Taylor said.

The boosters use proceeds from the chili event to support each of Central Crossing's teams and provide funding for various team expenses, Taylor said.

"But we do more than just support the teams," she said. "We're also there to support the student athletes themselves."

Some of the proceeds from the cook-off are used to help cover the pay-to-play fee students are charged in the South-Western City School District.

"Success Beyond the Classroom Foundation (an organization that provides pay to play scholarships to qualified students) does such a wonderful job, but unfortunately they can't give a scholarship to every student who applies," Taylor said. "We try to provide assistance to as many of our students as we can to make sure every one has a chance to participate."

All booster members pay a $5 membership fee and that revenue is used to provide four $500 scholarship each year to graduating seniors, she said.

A team of five judges sampled the chili.

One of the judges was Tim Burke, the husband of Central Crossing Principal Jill Burke.

"They give us a very specific set of criteria to judge the chili recipes," Tim Burke said. "We're evaluating the aroma, color, consistency, taste and after-taste."

As a veteran judge, Burke said he looks forward to the event, but acknowledged the job isn't as easy as it looks.

"You're sampling a whole bunch of chili," he said. "Even if you like chili a lot, it can be a little overwhelming."

The girls tennis team's chili had a variety of ingredients including onion, beef, celery, tomatoes, vinegar, pinto beans and both sweet and hot chili peppers, said sophomore Delaney Pfeiffer.

"It's a recipe that one of our player's dads came up with. We used it last year, too," she said. "I haven't sampled it yet this year, but last year I thought it was really good."

The tennis team wanted to win the competition, but the night was really more about having fun, Pfeiffer said.

"It's great to have all of the teams together," she said. "There's a lot of socializing and talking going on. It's fun -- but it'd be nice to win."

Reggie Cannon, the school's track-and-field coach, said he isn't a chili expert, so he refrains from "coaching" his teams' efforts in the cook-off.

The boys and girls track teams combined to offer a recipe created by a parent, Cannon said.

"It's spicy, but not too spicy," he said. "I like the taste of it."

While the event is a friendly competition, it also provides a chance for his teams to come together, Cannon said.

"It's a good team-building experience, in part because it's just a fun event they get to do together," he said. "Everybody's having a good time tonight, but there is a competitive feel to it. You'd like to get chosen by the judges, or at least get the most tickets."

The members of the girls softball team chose to attend the event dressed in costume, not their uniforms.

"We decided to portray the main characters from 'The Sandlot,' " sophomore Cheyanne Scott said. "We each dressed as one of the characters. The seniors helped choose who would play which character.

"It's just something fun to do for the chili cook-off," she said.

The judges' choice winner was the golf team. The baseball team won the table presentation award and the girls softball team won People's Choice, based on having the most people buy samples of their chili.

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