Whitman Sweets rise to Ultimate challenge
Times are changing in collegiate Ultimate Frisbee, and Whitman is soundly on board.
Ultimate is one of the few sports in which teams can transcend the divisions set by the NCAA for collegiate athletics and choose where they want to test their skills. Last spring, both Sweets teams gave themselves the ultimate (pun intended) challenge: foregoing expected national championships at the Division III level for the chance to compete against the best of the best at Division I.
“Last [spring] season was a breakthrough year for Whitman men’s Ultimate,” said senior captain Ben McGinn. After the Sweets men chose to compete in the DI postseason tournament, they held their own at regionals and finished 15 of 20 teams at nationals. This year, the ceiling is even higher.
“We think that we have a lot of potential this year,” said McGinn. “The way we see it, if we play to our potential, anything is possible this season.”
Although McGinn and his team realize that is a big “if,” the team has set itself up for success: The men will be attending the Stanford Invite (Palo Alto, Calif.) and College Centex (Austin, Texas), the two most prestigious tournaments during college Ultimate’s regular season.
The women also decided to take on the challenge of DI regionals last spring. Even though the Sweets did not qualify for nationals, they were able to play against big competitive state schools that increased their exposure to challenging games, according to junior captain Natalie Jamerson.
“As we continue to build a strong team, we hope to win our conference again this year,” said Jamerson.
For both Sweets teams, winning their respective conference title this year means the chance for another ticket to the DI postseason. And more games against big-time Ultimate programs mean more exposure to the changing culture in college Ultimate across the country.
The question often arises: Why is Ultimate so popular at Whitman?
“Ultimate is already a sport that naturally appeals to the Whitman community,” said McGinn. “That said, I think our successes have led to a certain understanding and respect for the sport around campus that is hard to find in places where people are less educated about the sport.”
Success has become a definitive trait of the Sweets and that success breeds respect for the Sweets from their fellow Whitties.
“Ultimate is a familiar component of Whitman that also serves as an attractive draw for the college,” said Jamerson. “Though the Ultimate culture can sometimes be regarded as laid back, frivolous or hippy-ish, I believe that the Sweets have proven that it is a focused sport that requires acute athleticism and dedication.”
Part of the reason Ultimate culture has become popularized at Whitman is its rising success, which the Sweets have recently enjoyed and are poised to continue. That culture has clearly sunk into campus and appears to be set to stay for a long time. Whitman also represents much of what defines the Ultimate culture nation-wide: a group of individuals that are able to come together, create their own niche in their communities and ultimately be successful.
“Ultimate stays dynamic and competitive because it is always changing and developing,” said Jamerson.
The Sweets will hit the peak of their regular season with high-profile tournaments in March: Both teams will travel to Stanford University for the Stanford Invitational, and the men were selected as one of only 20 teams invited to the College Centex tournament in Texas.
For more on the Whitman Sweets, visit www.wix.com/sweetscaptain5/ sweetshome.