More and more Kansas University students are taking part in ultimate Frisbee, a sport growing in popularity nationwide.
The KU men’s club team, the HorrorZontals, went to the national competition last year — placing the club among the top 20 teams out of more than 450 teams participating.
Ultimate — a combination of soccer and football — pits two teams against each other on one field, each trying to throw a disc down the field toward an end zone to score points.
KU’s men’s team has more than 50 participants, and a separate women’s team — the Bettys — has 35 members.
Ultimate players say that despite perceptions that the sport is for “a bunch of hippies” lazily throwing a disc around, the sport requires athleticism.
“It’s a whole range of people” who participate, said Ben Tannenwald, a junior from Overland Park and the HorrorZontals’ vice president. “Ideally, the person who plays would be tall and lanky.”
The KU squads travel around the country each year to a variety of tournaments — about a dozen for the men’s team.
The ultimate team focuses on defense, Tannenwald said, and is nationally ranked by the Ultimate Players Association, the sport’s governing body that sanctions the national tournaments.
The team at KU is old, at least in terms of the relatively young sport, going back to 1979, said Gary Gareis, president of the KU Ultimate club. While Gareis said elevation to an NCAA-sanctioned sport is possible someday, the sport has a long way to go.
Some additions will probably have to be made, such as referees, he said. Now, teams call their own fouls, which can lead to some disputes and compromises to resolve the issues that arise.
The sport has its own culture among its fans, who can be found across the globe, said Emily Marotta, president of the Bettys.
“Just about anywhere you go, you can find the ultimate community,” she said, saying people on the squad have traveled as far away as Morocco and still found places to play.
Both the men’s and women’s teams are involved in recruiting at high schools. They conduct practices in the middle of campus in the first few months of the year in the hopes of attracting new members.
“The best decision I ever made in coming to KU was getting involved with ultimate,” Marotta said. “All my friends are Bettys and ’Zontals.”