Pitt club ultimate bides time in hope for Championships

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Danger (pictured) and En Sabah Nur of Pitt are both projected to attend college nationals.

By Hope Matyas, Staff Writer

The College Championships are my last hope for club ultimate. The tournament is held annually over Memorial Day weekend after the end of the spring semester — hopefully, safe from Pitt’s cancellation of all club sport competitions until the end of the 2019-20 school year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Both Pitt women’s and men’s ultimate teams started spring break competing in their own respective tournaments. The men’s team, En Sabah Nur, competed at the Smoky Mountain Invite in Tennessee while my teammates and I on the women’s team, Danger, competed at the Stanford Invite in California.

By the time spring break ended, both teams started to realize our seasons may be over. Athletes living on campus had to move out if possible, leaving both teams divided and unable to run practices due to the most recent stay-at-home order implemented by Gov. Tom Wolf for Allegheny County. 

USA Ultimate released a first statement on March 12 regarding its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It suggested that some tournaments in the coming days would be cancelled, and schools that have not permitted club sports to travel or compete are to abide by these policies. 

The second update came at 4 p.m. that same day. All USAU events — including college conference championships — scheduled through April 20 were cancelled. Slowly but surely, everything was coming to an end.

The final announcement was made on March 16 and updated four days later. Everything was cancelled through May 10, including college regionals — the stage where teams compete for their region’s bid to the Championships, known colloquially as nationals. 

Each region automatically gets one bid, but regions can earn strength bids when teams in that area do well during their regular season. But one beacon of hope stood tall in the midst of chaos and disappointment — the Division III and Division I college championships were still set to occur in late May. I refresh my email constantly.

Danger and En Sabah Nur of Pitt are both projected to attend college nationals. Both teams are ranked in the top 20 nationally, with the women at No. 13 and men at No. 9. Pitt Ultimate has sent both teams to nationals for the past five years, with En Sabah Nur taking home back-to-back national championships in 2012 and 2013. 

Two first-year players, Jessie Chan and Tristan Yarter, underwent the tryout and selection process to represent team USA in U20 Worlds this coming summer. However, in a reasonable decision to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the World Flying Disc Federation cancelled this event. These athletes’ determination to the sport brings Pitt Ultimate a great reputation and a surge of pride. They are an excellent example of the hard work and grit it takes to represent team USA.

So what do two nationals-bound teams do when practice facilities, tournaments and groups of 10 or more people are prohibited? My teammates and I have been using Schenley Park as a training center for throwing, distance running and agility workouts — anything to stay in shape to play frisbee at the highest level come late May. 

Back in the good old days of normalcy, Pitt Ultimate practiced in the Pitt Sports Dome three days a week with rigorous track and lifting regimens. The community has been growing more tight-knit and competitive through full-program gender equity meetings and sharing equipment for film. At any point of the day you could find a solid third of us on the ground floor, left side, of Hillman using trash cans and upright water bottles as target practice. 

Warmer weather brings an influx of people and frisbees to Cathy Lawn, and now that the government is allowing people to go outside to exercise, we can’t be stopped. While it is unlikely that college nationals will come to fruition, the program has each other to lean on and an entire year of hard work and growth to be proud of. If May does come around and everything is set to go, Pitt Ultimate will be ready to rage. 

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