The assembly included 221 men and 177 women — making up 24 teams and representing 20 schools from 18 different states — at the National Sports Center in Blaine this weekend.
They were all there to toss around the old Frisbee.
In theory, that is.
In actuality, those 20 schools have the best men’s and women’s Ultimate Frisbee teams in the country, and all were in search of a national championship.
Division I schools like top-seeded Stanford comprised the vast majority of the field, but a small local school was an exception to that rule. The men’s and women’s teams from Carleton College, a Division III school in Northfield, Minn., have qualified for nationals nearly every year for the past decade, despite playing Division I teams.
On Friday, the Carleton men, seeded No. 2, rolled over Yale 17-5, but then lost to third-seed California-Santa Barbara. After holding a 5-4 lead, Carleton gave up eight consecutive points to Santa Barbara, which went on to win its third consecutive national title Sunday.
“The biggest problem was with our mental game,” said Carleton captain Jon Remucal. “We had confidence we could beat this team but we let up a little; we had a mental lapse.”
The Carleton women won both their games Friday, beating Wisconsin 15-10 and Cornell 15-12.
“We won on depth and speed,” said captain Deb Cussen. “(Cornell) had some great players, but they got tired down the stretch.”
Rik Gran, the information coordinator for the national championships and captain of the University’s Ultimate team this year, gave credit to Carleton for establishing itself as a top-notch team.
“(Carleton) started off weak like most schools do when trying to start a program,” Gran said. “But with the increase in Ultimate participation at the intramural level in high school and college, they were fortunate to have so many people who tried it as freshmen in college and liked it.”
Minnesota has struggled in competition since starting an Ultimate club team two years ago, but Gran said he thinks the team can follow Carleton’s example and grow to a higher level of success.
At 5-0 heading into Sunday, Carleton’s women’s team automatically advanced to the semifinals, but ultimately lost to Stanford in the championship game.
“They’re good and a little experienced after playing it for a year or two,” Gran said of Carleton.
In recent years, intramural teams, club teams, city league teams and traveling teams have adopted the the growing sport.
Part of the game’s popularity comes from its similarities to other established sports.
ù The field is similar to a football field in that it is almost 100 yards long and has end zones. Two teams each have seven players on the field trying to score in the opponent’s end zone.
ùThe general strategy for the offense is to pass the disc methodically down the field until a catch is made in the end zone. The defense is not allowed to make contact with offensive players. Each score is worth one point, with men’s games played to 17 and women’s to 15.
ù A team can only advance the disc by passing it; players cannot run with the disc. Once players catch a pass, they must stop running, leaving them with only one step and a pivot foot (just like when a basketball player stops dribbling). The defender of the player with the disc counts out loud to 10. If the disc isn’t passed to a teammate by then, a “stall” occurs, and it is a turnover.
ù Turnovers also occur if a person doesn’t catch the disc, or if the disc is intercepted or goes out of bounds.
The hook is the action, Gran said.
“After that first time, other people come in and start saying, I didn’t want or like playing for the basketball or football teams, I want to play Ultimate,'” Gran said.