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Photo from Dustin Balton/www.ultiplanning.com

Junior Paul Owens won an ultimate frisbee national championship with the Philadelphia AMP this weekend.

Penn offers a plethora of unique opportunities to its students that can take time to uncover, and one of these hidden gems is ultimate frisbee.

Ultimate frisbee, also commonly known as "ultimate," is one of the 36 club sports that Penn offers. Boasting a combined 100 players on the men’s and women’s teams, it provides students with a team sport that is also a tight-knit group.

The men’s club team, Void Ultimate, was established at Penn in 1976. Venus Ultimate, the women’s team, followed in 1989. Both teams compete at the Division I Club Ultimate Program level in the East Pennsylvania section and Ohio Valley Region underneath the USA Ultimate governing body.

Both the men’s and women’s programs have A and B teams. They generally recruit during the club activities fair and are very open to new players joining. Team members emphasize how close the two teams are, and the off-the-field social aspect of hanging out as a team makes the program special. 

“If people have an interest in coming out, we’re very open to new players, and there’s no experience required,” senior captain Mike Becker said. “It’s focused on having a good time.”

The captain of the Venus, Lauren Hoang, started out as one of those beginners.

“Coming in, I didn’t have any experience at all with ultimate, and I really wanted a sport to continue playing,” Hoang said. “I played a lot of sports in high school, and I just wanted something that was more of a team sport, and I thought this was great.”

Penn ultimate frisbee practices three times a week, with the men’s and women’s squads splitting the field. Additionally, the teams will sometimes mix and scrimmage. Coming into Penn, a lot of players are like Hoang, looking for a team sport to play at school. Consequently, many students don’t know how to play. 

The fall semester consists of primarily training beginners. Then, in the spring, the teams are in-season. The ultimate squads compete against local schools, like Drexel, Temple, and Villanova, but they also play out of state. The teams additionally compete in tournaments across the East Coast.

Junior co-captain Paul Owens has a long history with the sport. Radnor High School in Wayne, Pa. offered an ultimate frisbee team, which he joined as a sophomore. Once arriving at Penn, he signed up for the club team immediately.

“I have been involved in the ultimate community as much as possible; it’s so unique,” Owens said. “I never realized how many people, players, and everyone I’ve met is so close with each other. It’s really cool.”

“I play a lot,” Owens said, laughing.

Owens has made his own mark on the sport outside of Penn’s campus. In addition to Penn club ultimate, he plays on the Philadelphia Phoenix and the Philadelphia AMP. The Phoenix are in the professional American Ultimate Disc League, and the AMP are a mixed team that is a part of the USA Ultimate governing body.

Last weekend, Owens played in the USA Ultimate National Championship in San Diego. The Triple Crown Tour Mixed Division Tournament culminated with a matchup between the AMP and the San Francisco Mischief. The AMP won, 15-9, and Owens came back to Penn as an ultimate national champion.

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