Local ultimate frisbee players aim for national titles

The 2019 U.S. Open Championships for Ultimate begin Saturday morning in Minnesota.

Posted: Aug 2, 2019 4:35 PM

Eugene, Ore. -- Football season may be ramping up but that doesn't mean other sports in the Willamette Valley stop. This weekend, local Eugene ultimate frisbee players are in Minnesota doing a little more than tossing the disc to the dog. 

If you've gone to the beach or to a park, you've probably seen people tossing around a frisbee. This is something entirely different.

"It's definitely a full sport although most people don't see it like that," says Ben Thoennes, one of the members of the Oregon Eruption., a local under-17 boys Ultimate team.

Here in eugene, two of the best youth teams in the country train quietly on Century field. The sport, only 41 years old, has developed into a national game, with squads not just competing at the club level, but between schools as well. Whether it be South Eugene High School ultimate, the Eruption, or the Downpour (the local girls under-20 team), players come with open minds and leave in the pursuit of becoming the next great ultimate player.

"Just a lot of practice," says Thoennes. "We practice for our high school team at least three times a week. What I like is it's a team sport and it's really reliant on all the players rather than just like some sports, like basketball, where one player can dominate."

And it's not just the boys. The South Eugene girls were one of the top high school teams in America this past spring.

"There's definitely a sense of a little bit of pressure. We are representing Oregon women's ultimate and upholding spirit of the game," says Maya Stewart, a member of the Downpour. 

So you've got your backhand, you've got your forehand, you've got your hammer throw, you even have your chicken wing. All moves that have been perfected en route to making these two teams some of the best in the nation.

"It's just...it's pretty fun to be able to represent that and know that our team is one of the better teams in the nation," Thoennes says of the Eruption, who are the top seed in the U-17 division of the 2019 U.S. Open Ultimate Championship. The girls, in particular, hope to grow the game on their side, taking their small community of female ultimate players and turning it into something greater.

"Within the community there's like, broader friendships that are there just because we play ultimate," says Acacia Hahn, another member of the Downpour. "There's a bunch of really awesome pro women players who come teach us at camps. They recognize us, they know our names and that's also really exciting," Stewart finishes. 

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