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The Scarlet & Black

Men’s Ultimate discovers easy path to Nationals

By Kelsey Roebuck

The Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, the Grinnellephants, will be joining the Women’s team at Nationals, May 21-22 in Buffalo, New York, where they will compete against teams from other Division III schools across the country.

This is the second year that the United States of America Ultimate (USAU) organization has sponsored a National Championship for colleges with less than 7,500 students.

“We set it as a goal at the beginning of the season to qualify for the Division III National Championships,” said Captain Tom Elliott ’11. “From that point, we created a workout regimen and focused our practices more and we really tried to improve our first year class in order to be competitive on a nationwide scale.”

Due to several date and location changes, only three out of 19 eligible teams elected to compete at the regional qualifying championship.  However, Grinnell’s team is proud to have taken second place and to have earned the chance to go to Nationals.

“Actually, it was the three teams who were hoping to make it to Nationals, so they were the three best teams,” Elliot said.

The Grinnellephants played their first game against Beloit College, which started out slowly for Grinnell. Beloit’s team scored two points in the first few minutes while Grinnell’s team tried to catch up. The players, however, quickly found their motivation.

“In the second half, we decided, well, we don’t want to lose this game,” Justin Chang ’11 said. “It was great to see everybody start playing to their full potential.”

The Grinnellephants won the game against Beloit 15-9, qualifying them for Nationals and placing them among the top sixteen teams in the country.

The team played against St. John’s College for their second game and experienced just a taste of what the competition will be like at Nationals.

“We just got destroyed,” Chris Kaiser-Nyman ’13 said. “There’s a lot of work to be done in the next two weeks. When we go to Nationals we’ll have our game faces on.”

The second game was also affected by an injury to star player and captain Tom Elliot. After laying out for a disk in the first game, he pulled a muscle and was unable to compete for the rest of the day. The other players had to adapt to his absence.

“Losing Tom was hard psychologically, I think,” Kaiser-Nyman said.

The team attributes their highly successful year to a strong group of first-years and the effort spent building relationships, regardless of class year.

“It’s been great because we’ve built such a great community now,” Chang said. “Personally, I’ve felt as the years have gone by, the program has developed as a team… It’s been more integrated from first years to seniors.”

With 8 first-years, a handful of second and third years, and 8 seniors this year, the team captains knew they had to create a strong group of leaders out of their younger members.

“We thought the best strategy… was… giving our first years a lot of playing time,” Elliott said. “And, by immediately expecting them to be contributing members of the team.”

The first-years’ willingness to step into these leadership roles was a major contributing factor to the team’s success. Participation in every team activity was high this year.

“They hit the weight room every day they were supposed to,” Kaiser-Nyman said. “And at track practices, attendance was great.”

Ultimate Frisbee, as a college activity rather than an official sport, is organized by the student captains, without the benefit of professional coaches. Work-out regimens and practices are a product of close collaboration between students from all types of athletic backgrounds. Team captain Tom Elliott is known for his skill on the field, while captain Aaron Swaney ’11’s experience as a former varsity athlete helps to improve the physical fitness of all the players.

“We kind of had the perfect storm of motivated upper classmen to come in and give the first years an idea – if you hope to be successful in this sport, here are some things you can do to make you successful,” Elliott said.

As the culmination of all of this hard work, the National Championship will provide the team with the chance to prove themselves alongside the Women’s team, which placed third at last year’s Nationals.

“Both teams will be very, very competitive at Nationals, which is very exciting because this is the first time that that’s happened,” Elliot said, “I think both programs are trying to build a tradition of success, because it makes it easier to get people to come out and play, and it makes it more fun, honestly.”

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    CerbotMay 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    3rd place (and 15th seed…), 4-1 record, the only loss was against St. John’s in a much closer game than at Regionals…