The Ultimate experience

issue 01 | winter 2024

Students throwing a Frisbee across a grassy lawn is a classic college cliche, one that plays out on The Hill any given warm Granville day.

But three times a week on the intramural fields, the Denison Frisbee Ultimate Club takes this sunny day pastime to another level.

Ultimate Frisbee has been a mainstay at college campuses for over 50 years. The game was created in a high school parking lot in New Jersey in 1968, and its founders carried the sport to their respective colleges. Ultimate took off from there — over 800 colleges and universities now field teams, including Denison.

The Denison Frisbee Ultimate Club brings together players with different levels of experience, priding itself on a low barrier to entry. If you can learn how to throw a disc and are down to run more than you’d expect, the team welcomes you with open arms.

Men’s team co-captain Evan Goodgee ’26 started playing ultimate in middle school. Women’s team co-captain Ally Collins ’24 didn’t touch a disc until the spring of her sophomore year at Denison.

“We purposefully don’t require experience,” Goodgee said. “This could be the first sport you’ve ever played — it doesn’t matter. It just takes a little bit of time to get the basics down, but once it clicks, it’s about how hard you want to push yourself to keep getting better.”

Ultimate is a non-contact, seven-on-seven sport played on a rectangular field. The objective is to score points by catching the Frisbee in the opposing team’s end zone while adhering to a “no running with the disc” rule. Players must pass the disc among their teammates, and turnovers occur if the disc is dropped, intercepted, or goes out of bounds. The games are first to 15 points, and the sport is self-refereed.

Denison’s team competes against other schools in the Ohio Conference of USA Ultimate’s D-III division. They travel to a handful of tournaments throughout the state and spend the night, playing a few games on Saturday and the remainder on Sunday. Toward the end of the school year, they compete against the other teams in their division — Kenyon, Franciscan, Oberlin, Wooster, Xavier, and Cedarville — for the chance to play in the Ohio Valley regionals, and later the college national championship.

From 2008 until 2020, Denison had two ultimate teams — the Denison Frisbee Ultimate Club and the Denison Ladies Ultimate Club — but as numbers dwindled following the Covid pandemic, the two teams temporarily merged into one. This year, with new monikers, they’re back to two.

The men are the Bunnies; the women, the Frisbee Frogs.

Ultimate, at all levels, is a sport of goofiness. Teams often have silly names, uniforms, and rituals. Denison is no exception. The practice before Halloween, everyone shows up in costume to scrimmage.

“We’re a goofy group and we like to have fun,” said Goodgee. “But it’s important to strike the right balance. There are moments where it’s great to be goofy, and there are moments when it’s time to be serious, and we just have to be on the same page about our common goals.”

Denison’s acceptance of all skill levels has led to its fair share of success stories. For Danny Miller ’13, it started during August Orientation, when a guy who lived down the hall in Shorney invited him to throw discs. They went to practice together. Danny was hooked.

“I was garbage — I couldn’t throw, I couldn’t catch,” Miller said. “But everyone was super nice. I played a bunch of sports in high school and didn’t really have plans to play in college, but I just kept hanging out and fell in love with the game. I got a little better my sophomore year, and by junior year, I was like, ‘I’m kind of all right at this thing.’”

That random Aug-O conversation turned into a six-year semi-pro ultimate career, where Miller played for the Chicago Union of the American Ultimate Disc League.

Tricia Smit ’10 signed up for every sport she could at her first-year involvement fair, and the Ultimate Frisbee club happened to be the first to reach out to her. By her sophomore year, she and Kate McInerney ’08 launched the women’s team.

“The very first tournament we went to was an indoor tournament in Cleveland at Case Western,” Smit said. “And we won the tournament. The very first tournament ever for the women’s team, and we went and we won it. I have some great wins in my life, but that first tournament, and having a primary role with that team, that’s up there.”

Smit and her co-captain and roommate, Paige Kercher ’10, still play ultimate, although now it’s for some of the top club teams in the world. Smit’s New York XIST and Kercher’s Seattle Mixtape are staples at USAU Club Nationals every fall. In 2022, Kercher got the upper hand, as Mixtape defeated XIST 15-13 in the semifinals on their way to a national championship.

Mixtape also went on to win the 2022 World Ultimate Club Championships in Cincinnati, earning Kercher the title of world champion back in the state where it all started for her.

“When I think back, I remember a lot of belly laughs, a lot of zaniness, and an overall feeling like I had found my people,” Kercher said. “And even as I left the Denison ultimate scene, that sense of community is something I’ve felt everywhere I’ve gone.”

Published December 2023
Back to top