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The Scarlet & Black

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The Ultimate Weekend: Elephants, Frogs and Frisbee, Oh My!

By Jalyn Marks

“What’s that smell? … It’s Grinnell!”

Cheers like these could be heard last weekend as 16 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams arrived in Grinnell to compete in the 11th annual Elephantitis Frisbee Tournament, the first ultimate frisbee tournament of the fall for most colleges in the Midwest region. The games were played on Mac Field and three fields in Ahrens Park.

Carter Wiese ’14 throwing a flick to get around his defender. Photograph by Parker Van Nostrand

Both the Grinnell men’s team, the Grinnellephants, with about 45 players, and the Sticky Tongue Frogs, the women’s team with about 25 players, competed in the tournament, along with an alumni team, the Grinnellephant Graveyard. Since the men’s team was so large, they split into two teams for competition: Calvin and Hobbes.

It is not unusual for the men to split up and use dichotomous names; last year, the men’s teams were called Buzz and Woody. Aside from the creative naming opportunities presented by these splits, they also have a practical function.

“[It] give[s] the rookies a lot of playing experience, especially for people who have never played the game before—who have never played in real game speed and never played against real opponents,” said men’s team captain Evan Ma ’14.  “Another reason why it’s great is because it gives our returning players a lot of potential leadership opportunities. … a chance to lead other players on the field.”

While this would be considered the fall season for ultimate, the teams practice on through the winter and then start a new, more serious season in the spring. Tournaments played during the fall are typically considered to be more of an opportunity for teams to gain experience and gauge their strengths and weaknesses, while the spring tournaments are more competitive and ultimately lead to the nationals competition in May.

Although the men lost all of their games during the tournament and the women won only two out of five, both teams were pleased with the tournament.

“It’s more of a developmental tournament,” said women’s captain Carissa Shoemaker ’14.

Even though there were some very competitive teams at the tournament, it was meant to be more of an educational, non-threatening atmosphere for new players. Sometimes the teams would even stop in the middle of a match to explain a certain aspect of the game to new players.

“Elephantitis has always been kind of a learning tournament for us. We introduce new players to the idea of a tournament … playing all day both days. That’s kind of like a tryout for us as a team,” said captain Benyamin Elias ’15.

Elias was quick to clarify, however, that the team, as a rule, doesn’t make any cuts.

“If anyone wants to play they can,” he said.

Both the men’s and women’s teams were pleased with their performance and improvement throughout the tournament.

“I’m looking forward to seeing where our team goes and I think we’re heading in a very positive direction,” Shoemaker said.

“A tournament is worth a lot more than practice,” Elias said. “The first game that we played on Saturday we lost, but the team that existed by the end of Saturday would have easily won that first game.”

After games, the women’s teams cheered for other teams at the tournament, yelling things like, “La Crosse, you da boss!” and “Cuddle Raptors, we want to spoon you!”

This sense of competitive integrity is equally on display during match play, in which the players act as officials.

“It’s like self-gov for sports,” said Julia Daniels ’14. “Frisbee is self-officiated. We don’t have refs; you make your own calls.”

After the tournament itself is over each year, Grinnell Dining Service’s own Lyle Bauman invites all of the teams over to his property for a cookout celebration and campout, including a concert by student band Shit in the Face.

“It’s legendary,” said women’s captain Eva Metz ’14.

Bauman has historically had a strong relationship with the frisbee teams, who have been saddened to hear of his recent struggle with prostate cancer.

“This Saturday night, after the band finished their set, there was a cheer of ‘Lyle!’ going around. He just had this most amazing smile on his face,” said men’s captain Eric Streed ’14.

The team is also involved in fundraising for Bauman.

“We also got the word out, too, to other teams, that if they felt any sort of sentiment toward this tournament in the past then they should donate to Lyle,” Elias said.

Both the Grinellephants and the Sticky Tongue Frogs look forward to continuing their season and wish Bauman a fast recovery.

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    Jane E. ShafritzSep 25, 2013 at 4:50 am

    Good work Jalyn. I’m glad to see you have gotten involved in Journalism again.