Whitman College senior Corbin Atack co-captains the Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team. During his time on the team, he’s gained more than skills. He’s gained a community.
If you’ve never seen it in action, Ultimate Frisbee combines the nonstop nature of soccer with the high energy of basketball and passing skills of football. Teams score by throwing a flying disc into the end zone.
Atack says he was born to play.
“Growing up, my dad and I were never throwing a ball around. It was always a frisbee,” says Atack.
That’s what made him seek out the Ultimate Frisbee team—also known as the Sweets—at Whitman. It actually played into his college decision.
Club sports at Whitman are student-initiated and primarily student-run. Hundreds of students participate in the 12 club teams at Whitman each year. Whitties who participate further develop their skills in leadership and time management—among others—while making lifelong friendships and memories.
“I had only applied to colleges that had Ultimate Frisbee teams because I knew that, other than academics, I wanted to prioritize my love for Frisbee,” says Atack, a computer science major from Seattle.
Since Whitman is such a small-knit community, it didn’t take him long to find the “group of crazy people out on Ankeny.”
“I was surprised to see that we play right in the middle of campus—but it’s to get people to see us, and feel like they can come out and play and just have fun,” says Atack.
“Welcome to the Sweets. It’s crazy here,” says senior Jess Zaslove, co-captain of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team. “We always love to have new people out here, even people who aren’t interested in playing. We are pretty fun to watch.”
To kick off the new school year and welcome new players, both teams come together to hold the Hat Tournament—a classic Whitman tradition. Teams are assembled by drawing names from a hat and players must wear unique hats during the match. If a player’s hat falls off during play, it’s an automatic turnover to the other team.
“We encourage everyone to wear the craziest hats. Once, someone even brought a hollowed-out watermelon!” says Zaslove, a philosophy major from Seattle.
“Ultimate is a mixed scene at Whitman—open to everyone,” says Atack. “We have a weekly pick-up game that often turns into weekend brunch and afternoon hangouts.”
Building a bond off the field makes them a stronger team on the field.
Competing at the Top
Ultimate Frisbee at Whitman has two modes of competition, Atack says. During the fall semester, the game is played in a goofy, fun, light-hearted way. The spring brings competition which brings out the Sweets’ attitude to a here-to-win ultra-competitive side.
However, as it did for many things, the pandemic shut down their Spring 2020 season. Since the Sweets didn’t get their competitive spring season, they competed this fall.
The men’s team had a stellar season—making it to Nationals. As soon as these student-athletes finish their last final in December, they will travel to southern California to compete for the title.
The women’s team also made it to the top—qualifying for Northwest Regionals in Seattle. In the end, they opted out of the tournament. Instead, the team decided to play in another, more community-driven team-bonding type of tournament.
Congratulations to Kai Kirsch and Leo Dungan-Seaver!
Both members of the class of 2025 were invited to join the West Coast tryouts for the 2022 World Junior Ultimate Championships US men's team.
“Our budget would only allow for one of two tournaments. The team voted on which they'd like to go to, and Oregon Fall Ultimate Disc Games it was,” says Zaslove. “The nice thing about this tournament is that both the men’s and women’s teams go, so it's a great bonding weekend for the entire program!”
Making Friends, Making Memories
“We spend a lot of time with our teammates and they become really good friends,” says Atack. “My friends’ group is riddled with Frisbee players. Some of us are even housemates.”
Traveling also brings the teams closer together. When on the road, they make sure to stock up with everyone’s favorite snacks and put together playlists of team members’ favorite songs. They often switch cars and hotel roommates during the season to ensure they spend time and build bonds with each of their teammates.
“I am very grateful to have had the Sweets throughout my time at Whitman. It means more to me than I can really say.”
— Jess Zaslove, senior co-captain for the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team.
“Ultimate at Whitman is a community I always want to come back to. It feels welcoming and inclusive, very warm. Our community really cares about each other. I know that if I am having a rough day, I can call on my teammates,” says Zaslove. “This is what college should be about. There is school work, but there is also a lot of happiness outside of the classroom.”
She says the sentiment is felt across Whittie generations. During the annual Alumni Tournament, her conversations with former Sweets made her cherish her experience even more.
“In speaking with alums, I realized they also share the same values and have similar memories to the ones I am making right now,” Zaslove says. “The players on the team are always changing but that special connection is always there.”