By ZACHARY COE/Montana State News
The Montana State University Ultimate team is the unsung pride of this university’s athletic program. While the common name of Ultimate Frisbee cannot actually be uttered due to trademark laws on the actual word Frisbee, the players and captains of the sport have made this relatively overlooked event nationally recognized.
Captained by Quinn Hanson, Drew Shanafelt, Than Wiggins and managed by Thomas Walz, the MSU Ultimate team has been nationally recognized as the 35th ranked team in the nation with a perfect tournament record that may lead the team into this summer’s national competition in Cincinnati.
While many in the community consider this to be a hobby rather than a serious, school endorsed activity, the last five to 10 years have seen a sharp rise in the level of support from MSU. The team is considered a varsity association and is officially called The Montana State Rum Runners. As a result of this involvement, the team is required to do fundraising and volunteering activities in the community. In exchange, the school assists with car rentals, insurance and other miscellaneous costs.
The team travels to many locations including Utah, Missoula, Phoenix, Seattle, Boise, Walla Walla and Cincinnati for the national tournament. As long as the team qualifies and also obtains funding from local business sponsors in addition to the school and players. While housing during these tournaments is relatively unpredictable, the school has a fair incentive program set up with the players to earn credit toward hotel rooms during travel.
Jake Reny, a three-year member of the squad, explained the strict rules, “We play to 15, win by 2, seven vs. seven, 70-year by 40-yard main field with 20-yard end zones added on each end. Time capped at 70 minutes and it is just win by 2 at that point. Score by catching with the first foot touching down in the end zone. (A player must) stop momentum after catching but is allowed a few steps to slow down.
Reny was kind enough to clear up some of the terminology for the sport : pull – kickoff; hammer – overhead throw; huck – long throw; dump – short pass to reset the 10 second stall count; handlers – players who can throw well and act like a quarterback; cutter – receiver who is downfield; sky – catch the disc from right over someone’s head; bid – Leap to catch the disc, landing horizontal; callahan – catching the disc when on defense in your own end zone (like a safety). You get the point, the good-natured spirit of the game. Because of the self-reffed nature of play, tensions can and do rise which necessitates good sportsmanship.
The resiliency and character of these players is a fine example of the positive effect athletics can have on students, universities and a community as a whole. Their dedication to this overlooked sport has yielded positive results as the players have risen to the challenge that the sport demands. Both on and off the field they continually prove that the heart of an athlete is a source of value regardless of the sport or activity.