The South Burlington boys ultimate team didn’t need varsity status — they already had it.
But it feels nice to get recognized, nonetheless.
The Wolves joined a group of 20 high school boys ultimate frisbee teams that earned official varsity status from the Vermont Principals Association (VPA) this year, when Vermont became the first state to recognize the sport.
South Burlington has treated ultimate as a varsity sport for the last five years, providing practice time, coaching, uniforms and the ability to compete at the club level.
“In the 2014 season we became a practice varsity sports at the high school, which meant we had more resources so we could add a (junior varsity) team,” said South Burlington coach Sebastian Ventrone. “That’s when I got added to the team.”
But now the team and the sport are official, the Wolves are focused on the same thing as the other athletes at South Burlington: winning a title.
“We already had goals going into this year to win a state championship,” said South Burlington senior Ethan Frost. “We have a lot of experience. Our goal from the get-go was to win.”
Ultimate, which is played on a playing surface slightly smaller than a football field with seven players on each side, received exhibition status from the VPA three years ago. Players pass a disc (or Frisbee) down the field with the goal of getting it into the end zone. If the disc falls, it is turned over to the other team.
“The rules have changed a lot,” said Ventrone, who started playing at South Burlington when he was a student there in 2008. “There’s more intensity and finesse, in terms of strategy. It’s like in football being a wide receiver and quarterback at the same time. It’s super fast-paced.”
In addition, the sports is refereed by the players themselves which is another aspect that stands out according to Frost.
“I love it,” the senior said. “There is a certain level of connection. Without refs, it’s really special to see how we can negotiate plays and never have any trouble.”
With the varsity status, the South Burlington coach and players have noticed an uptick in interest — both on the sidelines and in new players turning out.
“A lot more people go to our games and there are more people joining,” Frost said. “We had four new players join this year and just pick it up.”
While the players are focused on the playoffs, Ventrone has some different plans for the ultimate team.
“It’s a growing college sport,” Ventrone said. “We are trying to get as many people on this level now so they can go on and keep playing for the rest of their lives.”
For now, the experienced group have the Wolves off to a 11-2 start in the regular season. With four games remaining on the schedule, South Burlington has an eye on a home playoff spot.
“The ultimate goal would be a new banner in the gym for the first state title,” Ventrone said. “At this point, we are just trying to see more and more interest grow.”