JP Wood, Staff Reporter
Football school? Basketball school? Marching band school?
How about ultimate frisbee school?
JSU’s Ultimate team- known as Firebird Ultimate- is making some noise across the region on the ultimate field. The team, still in its infancy as a program, competed in and won their very first sanctioned tournament earlier this month at UAB.
For program founder Andrew Record, this is the culmination of three years of hard work and team building to reach this very point. “This year we finally felt like we were ready. We had beat some teams that were sanctioned earlier and realized we could really start competing.”
Record, set to graduate in May, was part of a pick-up group within the Southerners when he got the idea to start an organized university team.
“I did as much to educate myself on the sport and get better, because I had hadn’t really played competitively before. After that the biggest thing was just recruiting. And that’s the hardest thing to do in any sport, is to get people to commit.”
Firebird started out in a developmental league for their first two years. These years saw the team playing mostly B-teams and other upstarts. After a non-sanctioned tournament in Samford in the fall which saw JSU Firebird finish second overall, the team realized they were ready for the next level.
That brought them to UAB for their first sanctioned tournament: The Magic City Invite. Entering play as the dead-last #12 seed, JSU upset #1 seed UAB 11-4 in their first game of pool play. JSU would finish pool play undefeated, taking down Middle Tennessee State, Berry, Alabama, and Ole Miss en-route to the four-team playoff the next day. In bracket play, JSU would then defeat North Georgia and Mississippi State to claim the tournament title.
Seven major wins over two days and a first-place finish, all in their first taste of sanctioned play? Not bad.
For Record, this is just the stepping off point for a program with a very high ceiling. To be performing at this level in only its third season is pretty significant. “It’s a big deal for a team this young to be defeating teams that have existed for five, ten, twenty years already, and I think we can keep building upon that.”
JSU Firebird will compete in a sectional tournament this weekend, that will see them face off against teams within their section—teams like Alabama, Auburn, UAB, and Mississippi State. A high finish there will see them move on to regionals where they will matchup with teams from all over the southeast.
With Record’s graduation next month, the program he’s shepherded from the beginning will be passed on to someone else’s hands. In fact, he’s already named two new captains this year in order to prepare them to fully take over next year. One of those captains, Luke Thomas, looks to help the program succeed well into the future.
“Success is not necessarily just from winning, but also seeing the program grow.” he says. Success, he says, starts off the field with recruitment. He also wants to see the team make deep postseason runs and compete in larger tournaments. Under his leadership, he wants to see the team continue its upward trajectory in both wins and recruitment.
JSU Firebird has already initiated one move toward growth: A women’s team. Captained by Emily Yeend, the women’s team is new as of this semester.
“In the fall, the goal is to at least attend one tournament just for fun,” Yeend says. She says that in the past, girls at rookie week can be overwhelmed, and that one goal of the women’s team is to have prospective female players less likely to be intimidated. “I’m trying to get girls interested in playing, because a lot don’t even know what it is.”
If you’re interested in joining the JSU Ultimate team, keep an eye out for their rookie week announcements at the beginning of the fall semester. Rookie week is an opportunity for new players to come out and play with other new players to ease in to the game. If you’ve never played before, don’t let that turn you away. According to the JSU Ultimate website, most players don’t actually learn the game until they reach college.
For more information on the sport and the program here at JSU, jsuultimate.com has an FAQ section with more resources.