Ultimate Goes National

 

By Lauren Pongan '09
 

ultimate
The Dazzlin’ Asses, Colby’s Ultimate Frisbee team, at the D-III national championships in Buffalo, N.Y., in May. It was the team’s first appearance at the event, which followed a 17-2 season.
With a spring-season record of 17-2, a win at sectionals, and a close second-place finish at regionals, Colby’s Ultimate Frisbee team received its first invitation to the national USA Ultimate Division III College Championships this year.

In the pretournament rankings the Colby club team, nicknamed the Dazzlin’ Asses, was seeded 12th among 16 teams at D-III nationals in the Buffalo, N.Y., area May 21-22. The team felt the absence of five experienced seniors who, as the team was competing, were busy graduating. “I personally would love to skip commencement and play, but my family is coming from Hawaii/California (and only for the weekend). I don’t think they would take me skipping graduation very well,” wrote co-captain Matt Smith ’11 in an e-mail.

Colby was eliminated from the championship bracket on Saturday, losing to the top-seeded Claremont Braineaters (who went on to win the championship), Truman State, and the Swarthmore Earthworms. Still, the competitors had no regrets. “Nationals was fantastic,” said rising senior and future co-captain Will Bloomhardt ’12. “I think the end result was pretty impressive. Even though we didn’t win any games we had a fun time and we’re looking forward to next year now.” 

The Dazzlin’ Asses (a name that plays off Colby’s mascot and the original “Dazzlin’ Polyester” jerseys) were formed in 2002 by Chelsea Pawlek ’05 and Steve Luke ’06. In the past the women’s and men’s teams have made it as far as regionals, and an influx of strong first-years made Colby even more competitive this season. “We had a pretty strong group of seniors who had played for four years, and we combined that with a lot of youth. A lot of people who played in high school came in as freshman,” said co-captain Chase Baker ’11. “It was the combination of youth and experience that really pushed us through.”

Ultimate Frisbee may conjure images of a relaxed, barefoot game for hippies, but ultimate (as it’s commonly referred to among players) has evolved into an athletic and intensely competitive sport, today’s players say.

The game is played seven-on-seven on a large field with two end zones, much like football. To score, a player must catch the disc in the opposite end zone. The team on offense works the disc down the field through throws and cuts. There’s no running with a disc in hand. Turnovers offer an opportunity for the defense to score. Games are usually to 13, 15, or a time cap.
USA Ultimate, the national governing body, claims more than 30,000 players in the United States, but the sport has become a global phenomenon, with a sanctioned World Flying Disc Federation Championship.

Despite the sport’s popularity it remains self-officiated. Even at the national and world championships there are only observers, to whom players may appeal if they can’t settle disputes. Players call fouls or violations, and opponents can contest. USA Ultimate calls it “a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed-upon rules, or the basic joy of play.”

Joy of the game was enhanced when Colby won a D-III flag at nationals by reenacting a scene from Top Gun. Their feat? Said Bloomhardt: “The highlight of the tournament was when they made our entire team walk up to a random single girl in the stands and serenade her with ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.’”

 
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