L.C. Bird High served as the host of the UPA State Championships this weekend, giving a number of Bird alumni a chance to return for a reunion of sorts. There are currently 29 Bird graduates playing on their colleges’ Ultimate Frisbee teams; many of those alumni present to support the next generation of players competing for a state title.
Nineteen of the former Sky Hawks are competing on the drill and rec fields at Virginia Tech. When asked if she went to VT to play Frisbee, one player answered, “I would never want my parents to know that.”
Many of the alums expressed pride in being on the ground floor of the program at Bird. The program started in 2003, and by 2005 it was ranked in the top five in the nation. In the beginning, the program was coed, but a girls’ team was started in 2007. Bird continues to be one of the top three teams in the state.
Chris Bowling is excited that the sport has just gained official recognition at Tech. “That instantly gave us access to fields and helped subsidize our expenses,” he said. Generally, all Ultimate Frisbee expenses come out of the players’ pockets.
Billy Spiller, who just completed his freshman year at VCU, observed that the sport is about 50 percent social and 50 percent athletic. “Don’t be fooled though,” he said. “There are some tremendous athletes involved in this sport.”
Tech’s Shannon Cullen agreed that the social aspect was special. “All my best friends are teammates,” she said. “The intensity does increase, though, as the competition becomes more meaningful. The guys particularly can get pretty aggressive.”
Clemson’s Keenan Watson and VCU’s Tschuna Gibson spoke of the “instant bond players share.” “It is cool to go to the beach and see people throwing and you know they are players – instant friendships can be struck up,” added Bowling.
Ultimate Frisbee players are recognized by their scholarship and sportsmanship. Spiller pointed out that there are no referees and that the sport’s players are governed by “the spirit of the game.” Bowling estimated that the average GPA on the Tech squad probably exceeded 3.4 and “most of them are engineering majors.”
Bird alumni currently playing at the college level include Hokies Darryl Eckert, Michelle Felicetti, Brandon Fleming, Alex Foldenauer, Aaron Reynolds, Josh Reynolds, Adam Potts, Trey Rives, Andrew DiStafano, Michael Clapman, Kevin Walke, Jake Kazensky, Matthew Harris, Joshua Smith, Kim Hayashi, Kelsey Hales, Cullen, Bowling and Troy Ukrop. Representing VCU are Gibson and Spiller. Kelly Patterson and Gena Kohler compete at UVa. Tim Rusbasan plays at George Mason and Randy Enge is at Longwood. Tom Niemela is loving life at the beach, competing at Coastal Carolina.
The players passed on their love and respect for coach Nick Ligatti. Ligatti is a member of the math faculty at Bird. Unlike his fellow coaches, he receives no compensation as a coach.
“I am fortunate that the school and athletic department certainly do recognize the importance of what we do,” he said.