By Bill Sorrell
The Ultimate Club Sport
Rhodes’ Ultimate Frisbee team has an ultimate nickname: Rhodekill.
The three students who founded the club sport team in 2001 decided that a play on words could translate to play on the field.
The team experienced its ultimate thrill in January 2006 when Rhodekill finished second in the Abita Savage Seven Ultimate Frisbee tournament at LSU.
“We’ve gotten better every year,” says Bethany Lindaman ’07, one of three captains who began playing when she was a first-year.
Ultimate Frisbee is not a laid-back, stand-around sport for players who don’t want to work hard. Aerobic speed is necessary to catch a flying disc that sails 10 or more yards.
“If you’re fast and coordinated, you can learn Ultimate Frisbee pretty fast. Height always helps,” says captain Frank Ix ’08, who at 6-2 is the tallest player on the team.
Daniel Large, a senior who’s played four years, calls the game a combination of football and basketball with a quicker pace than soccer.
Evolving from Frisbee football, the sport was founded in Maplewood, NJ, in 1968. Played in 42 countries, it was a medal sport in the World Games in Japan in 2001.
In Ultimate Frisbee, there are seven players on a team competing on a field that is 70 yards long and 40 yards wide with end zones 25 yards deep.
A player must catch the disc in the end zone for a score, which is one point. The disc is advanced only through passing, and a variety of defensive postures such as man-to-man and zone are used to block advancement.
When throwing, a pivot foot is stationary. There are backhand, forehand, high releases and advanced throws.
Most games, which can last up to 90 minutes, are played to 15 points. In savage tournaments there are no substitute players.
Rhodes, which last season had 22 players and about 13 more who attended practices, competes against college teams including Ole Miss, Hendrix, Memphis, Vanderbilt and Arkansas, as well as city teams throughout the South.
Getting to the Point
Unlike the movies, members of the Rhodes Fencing Club get to the point without traversing spiral staircases or fighting to the death.
“If you are on the strip (the 14-meterlong by 2-meter-wide field of play), you are confined and moving forward and backward and side to side. It is much more controlled,” says club president Alexandria Ng ’07.
However, it is the movies that spike interest in the sport. Legendary swashbucklers Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone and films such as The Princess Bride, Pirates of the Caribbean and of course, Zorro, have made swordplay chic.
Rhodes fencing coach Brad Kroeker has spotted budding Zorros. Ben Trentlage ’06, the club’s past president, won the division (state of Tennessee) championship in sabre in spring 2006. Matt Breeden ’08 has won tournaments in foil. Ng, who began fencing as a first-year student, has won two medals, in épée novice at Ole Miss and at Vanderbilt’s Cumberland Open in novice foil, both in 2004.
Whitney Powell ’07 has fenced four years at Rhodes. She won first in women’s sabre in the divisional tournament in 2006.
Fencing, which is an Olympic sport, uses three weapons: foil, épée, sabre.
Foil, a light and flexible weapon, has the smallest target area, the torso.
Épée, the heaviest of the weapons and with a stiff blade, targets the entire body except the back of the head, where there is no protection.
Sabre, the origins of which can be traced to the cavalry sabre, is a cutting weapon with a curved guard and a triangular blade. Its target area is above the waist, except the hands.
Rhodes’ student-run club of 30 members may send as many as 15 fencers to tournaments. The club is governed by the United States Fencing Association.
To get an edge, a fencer must develop flexibility, balance, footwork, stamina and reaction time.
“If you flinch, you can be immediately disarmed,” says Ng, who has a black belt in karate. “A good fencer is one who can read distance very well.”
As Ng says of the sport, “Nothing feels better than to take up a sword and fence.”