Frisbee Follies

Pitt's Ultimate Frisbee team is heading to the annual national finals in Boulder this weekend, and Pittsburgh's best chronicler of under-the-radar notable stories, Brian O'Neill, is on the case this morning: "Ultimate student-athletes like spring fling" in the Post-Gazette.

But the Pittsburgh angle here isn't just Pitt's unlikely success in Ultimate. Yes, Pitt is ranked #3 among US college teams and #4 overall, which is remarkable, considering that the team was founded only a dozen years ago. (The best of the rest: #2: University of Colorado. Then: University of British Columbia (#3 overall, ahead of Pitt), University of Oregon (#5, just after Pitt, then UC-Santa Cruz, Wisconsin, Iowa, Harvard, and Virginia). But as Brian notes, to win the championship Pitt will have to play through #1 ranked Carleton College of Northfield, Minnesota. As he puts it, Carleton, "the little school."

You may not know about Carleton. It is indeed little: Carleton enrolls about 2,000 undergraduates. (In Oakland alone, Pitt has about 17,000 undergraduates.) Carleton is far better known for its academics than for its athletics. It is an outstanding liberal arts college in a small (20,000 pop.) Minnesota town located about 40 miles south of Minneapolis. (Northfield is also the home of St. Olaf College.) My daughter will graduate from Carleton next month. Yes, I am a very proud father.

Despite its size -- in most college sports it is a Division III school, a minnow among whales when you look at the list above -- Carleton is one of the truly dominant teams in college Ultimate. In 2009, it won the national championship. In 2010, it was the national runner-up.

Carleton's Ultimate team, founded in 1984, is called CUT, which stands for Carleton Ultimate Team.  I suspect that this sort of focus has something to do with the team's on-field success.

(Pitt's Ultimate team has a clever name: En Sabah Nur, which means "The First One," the real name of the superhero Apocalypse -- in the Marvel Comics universe.)

Here is the additional Pittsburgh angle:  CUT is not only the best college Ultimate team in the nation. CUT also counts a Pittsburgher on its roster. Props to Pete Scheuermann, Mt. Lebanon grad, for making the team (no mean feat in Northfield!), and good luck to CUT in Boulder.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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