Bacchus Ultimate Frisbee Makes a Competitive Showing at Nationals
Bacchus, one of two Ultimate Frisbee teams at Lewis & Clark, qualified for the 2023 Men’s D-III National Tournament as a favored Northwest competitor, playing hard-fought games against other colleges from coast to coast.
In late May, Lewis & Clark’s long-standing Bacchus Ultimate Frisbee team traveled to the small town of Obetz, Ohio, for the 2023 Men’s USA Ultimate D-III College Championships, going head-to-head against several of the strongest teams in the nation. For the last decade, the gender-diverse team has developed into an elite competitor in the region, working fall, winter, and spring to play at the highest level.
The national tournament was an incredible learning experience for a young team with great potential, according to coach Ben Whitenack BA ’16. Bacchus team members arrived at their games eager and prepared for challenges, landing a win against Butler University in “pool play” and two close losses against Grinnell College and Middlebury College (the latter would go on to earn second place in the championship game). The team’s run ended with a defeat against Williams College in the pre-quarter finals.
Whitenack said that this year was all about building trust and getting into “exploration mode.” He is one of four coaches on the team, all of whom are former Bacchus players; the remaining three are Sam Franer BA ’14, Tadao Kumasaka BA ’22, and August Schwartz. Alumni often return as coaches and mentors, both for the love of the sport and the support structure that the team provides for members of the Lewis & Clark community.
“To excel at Ultimate Frisbee, you have to work hard, run fast, and jump high,” Whitenack said. “But it’s also different from other sports. Bacchus is made up of people seeking and building a strong support network. Every member of the roster strives to make our sport accessible and friendly to our community.”
This sense of unconditional acceptance means that the sport can be a foundational part of the college experience for players, many of whom continue to play after graduation. Bacchus is a team of around 30 active players, with over 60 who are involved in some capacity. This large group means that players get to interact with people from the college who are outside of their major and year, broadening their social experience and coming together to work toward a common goal.
Similar to the college’s Artemis women’s division team, prior experience with Ultimate Frisbee is welcome, but isn’t required for participation. Bacchus meets throughout the academic year, with three practices per week as well as optional opportunities for mental and physical development. The sport can be a valuable way to learn about dealing with stress, performance anxiety, and fear. The resultant skills can be applied both on and off the field.
“Many of us feel that being a part of Bacchus has been one of the most important parts of our college experience,” said Sebastian Williamson BA ’24, a team captain. “For some, it’s the gritty joy of competing at a high level without the commitment of varsity athletics. For others, it’s the consistent care and effort that our community fosters to lift up all of its members. For me, it’s all of the above–and the family I have found in my teammates, my coaches, and our very involved alumni base.”