Want to see men and women getting really, really close to one another with all their clothes on? Then go see some of the country’s top ultimate Frisbee players at the 2009 Northwest Regional Mixed Ultimate Championships. In the mixed division, men and women play together on teams with four men and three women.
The event—relocated from Salt Lake City to Park City—will be held in two PC-area locations Oct. 3-4. Preliminary rounds take place at Ecker Hills Middle School, 2465 W. Kilby Road (about a mile from the outlet mall) and at Willow Creek Park, located off Old Ranch Road, just past Kimball Junction (look for the big Ranch Road sign on the left). The elimination rounds are scheduled for Ecker Hills. There will be 16 teams competing, from states all over the Northwest, including Salt Lake City’s own Golden Spike team. The regionals will be intense, because each team will be vying for one of only four slots in the national championships. Yes, there are nationals—even world championships—in Ultimate Frisbee.
The game of Frisbee started when people began zooming lightweight pie plates in games of catch. In 1957, UFO fan and Utah native Walter Frederick Morrison invented the actual disc; 10 years later, the game of ultimate Frisbee was invented. Currently, it’s estimated that 5 million people are active players of the game.
Ultimate Frisbee involves not just people throwing a disc back and forth; it’s total, nonstop action between two teams of seven people. Each team tries to get a disc down to the other team’s end zone. Each “round” ends when one team reaches 13 (sometimes more or less) points.
Darian Abegglen—program manager for Salt Lake County Sports, which sponsors local leagues in spring, summer and fall— says it’s also a great way to get in shape. “There’s a lot of sprinting and quick moves, a lot of starting and stopping. It’s continual movement,” she says. It can be played in T-shirts and shorts, and no pads or other gear are required. That may be why the game is still growing in popularity.
Salt Lake County provides the organization and structure of the league and also offers pickup games all over the Wasatch for those who want to try the game or just practice. More news and schedules can be found on the Website UltimateSLC.org.
But the players in the regional championships are in the elite category. Catherine Greenwald, a former competitor who now only plays for fun, says, “It’s like football. Each team tries to pass the disc to a team mate in the other end zone. Meanwhile, defenders are trying to cause a turnover, which they can do by knocking the Frisbee down or intercepting it. The fun of the game is chasing the Frisbee and diving for it, because it doesn’t fall like a ball, it floats and hangs, so you have to dive and leap for it.”
In the championships, about two hours will be allowed for each round. One of the unusual things about the game is that there are no referees, so players are expected to call their own fouls and make their own calls. There’s even a name for player integrity: the “Spirit of the Game.”
Greenwald says, “People have been called for cheating lots of times. But sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what has happened, so that slows things down a little while people argue about it. If it isn’t resolved quickly, they have a do-over.”
The final elimination rounds will be played Sunday morning, Oct. 4, and the action should be over the top. Greenwald says, “The top handful of teams have already been making preparations for the finals at the end of October, but they won’t know if they get a slot until this weekend. It should be pretty intense.”
ULTIMATE FRISBEE NORTHWEST MIXED REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Ecker Hills Middle School
2465 W. Kilby Road, Park City
Willow Creek Park
Old Ranch Road, Park City