Ultimate test | TheUnion.com

Ultimate test

Bitney Springs ultimate (Frisbee) coach Chris Schneider often tells his players, “Don’t tell me you want to get in the game, find a way to convey your interest to me.”

Schneider still laughs as he thinks back to when Alicia Stillwell was a freshman and would stand glued to his side bobbing up and down non-stop, yelling for her team, desperately wanting to be on the field at all times.

Four years later Stillwell’s playing time is never an issue – the senior co-captain plays every minute.

And in three weeks, Stillwell will not only compete for minutes on her high school team, but she will travel to Seattle to compete for a spot on the United States Junior National Ultimate Team.

Two try-outs will take place for the squad with 30 high school girls reporting to Seattle from March 3-5. At the end of March another group of 30 girls will attend a try-out camp in Atlanta. Of the 60 girls, 20 will make the Junior National Team with two to five named alternates.

While Stillwell admits the whole process does make her a bit nervous, this isn’t her first time traveling to Seattle to play ultimate. Last summer, around the Fourth of July, she flew to Seattle to join some friends for a tournament that drew players from around the country.

At the try-outs Stillwell will be tested in explosive running, throwing accuracy, ability to lead and follow and knowledge of the sport.

Stillwell believes one of her biggest strengths is her ability to get open and make good cuts, along with her consistent throwing. Her defense is another part of her game she hopes the committee sees.

“Alicia is pretty average size, but she jumps really well and catches well in the air,” Schneider said. “She also violates the law where most players make a great catch and then follow it with a bad throw. She’s very calm and consistent.”

Why ultimate?

Going into her freshman year at Bitney Springs, Stillwell was excited about playing a sport, but wasn’t sure which one. At the time, Schneider was teaching an ultimate class as a physical education elective.

Stillwell took the class and immediately fell in love with the sport.

“Alicia was a little girl, but she didn’t play like a little girl,” Schneider said. “She was laying out for the disc as a freshman – and it couldn’t have been more than a month from when she began. Laying out and making diving catches are the most spectacular moves in the sport.”

The Bitney Springs ultimate team, which Schneider began five years ago, has become perhaps the most popular extra circular activity at the school. Twenty students of Bitney Springs’ total student body of 104 students play on the ultimate team.

Air Traffic Control, the name of the Bitney Springs team, competes mainly in tournaments on the weekends against college club teams. The state of California has only about 15 high school teams, most of which are located in Northern California.

Schneider sees the low numbers of high school teams as unfortunate.

“I think ultimate really is the perfect sport for high school,” Schneider said. “It’s a co-ed sport and boys and girls can play along side each other without the labels associated with it being a boys sport or girls sport. Both sexes are on the field at the same time. I can’t think of a better way to teach sportsmanship.”

If Stillwell makes the Junior National Team she will travel to Boston in early August to train with the team for four to five days then compete against teams from all over the world in the Junior World Championships. She expects to find out in early April if she makes the team.


To contact sportswriter Stacy Hicklin, e-mail her via stacyh@theunion.com or call 477-4244.

It is a fast-paced, running game that combines the nonstop movement and athletic endurance of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football. Two seven-player squads play the sport with a high-tech plastic disc on a field similar to football. Players move quickly from offense to defense. The goal is to connect a pass to a teammate in the end zone for a score.

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