While varsity sports at St. Olaf often get the most attention from the general student body, they are not the only sports teams competing on the Hill. St. Olaf also competes in many club sports. Club sports are an excellent way for students to stay active and involved in sports at St. Olaf with more flexibility than a varsity team. One of the many club sports at St. Olaf is ultimate frisbee.
Ultimate frisbee has two teams, a men’s and a women’s team. The men’s team is known as the St. Olaf Zerks and the women are known as St. Olaf Vortex. Both teams have a rich history competing at a national level with the women recently bringing home a national championship in 2018 and the men aspiring to do the same this season.
This year the ultimate season is a little different than past years. “Normally our season is in the spring but this year because COVID-19 sort of canceled everything, we are doing a remake championship series,” Zerks captain Luke Bleers ’23 said. “We’ll have conferences, regionals, nationals this fall and again in the spring.”
The Zerks were still able to make strides as a team despite COVID-19 canceling their season. “We were practicing three times a week but with limits on how big our groups could be. We were just practicing, expecting that we were going to have a competitive season at some point,” Zerks captain Gordon Larson ’22 said. “We didn’t waver much, we were very consistent and because of that we were able to skip some of the introductory stuff this year because we made so much progress last year.”
The team hopes that their experience and depth can help propel them to a successful year. “We had a really big first-year class come in last year that all wanted to play ultimate and we had a lot of returners — we only graduated like four or five players, so we had around 30 to 40 people who we knew wanted to play,” Larson said. Having such large numbers returning allowed the team to build chemistry and sharpen their skills. “I think we all know how good we can be and everyone is just super, super eager to win some games and beat some teams using all the things we have been working on,” Larson said.
The Zerks have some exciting tournaments to look forward to but one matchup in particular stands out. “The matchup I’ve been looking forward to the most is playing Carleton,” Bleers said. Ultimate frisbee is a big part of Carleton’s culture, as they have two men’s teams — one that competes at the Division I level and one that competes at the Division III level. The Zerks will compete against both teams but will face the Division III team at regionals. “Carleton’s like our rival and that is who we will compete with for our chance to go to Nationals. I’m really looking forward to playing them and it should be a really good game,” Bleers said.
Students have a few opportunities to check out the Zerks in action this fall. They have a scrimmage against Carleton on Carleton’s campus on Oct. 15. They will also play in their regional tournament in Woodbury later this fall. Students interested in joining the team can come to open practices, which occur every Wednesday at 4 p.m. on the fields behind the Rolf Mellby field. No prior experience with ultimate frisbee is required, as the club welcomes any student who wants to try out the sport.