LAKEWOOD RANCH — Someone driving past the Sarasota Polo Club might have wondered what 1,550 athletes were doing there at the break of dawn Friday, stretching their muscles in the fog.
There wasn’t an extra ounce of flab anywhere. These people all had rock solid abs.
“That’s because Ultimate is probably the most aerobic sport in the world,” said Margo Hasselman. Her husband, Josh Greenough, plays on one of the 60 Ultimate teams from 20 states, the District of Columbia and Canada that traveled to Lakewood Ranch for the 2009 Ultimate Players Association Club Championships being held Wednesday through Sunday.
Ultimate players have been coming to Lakewood Ranch on one weekend annually for the past 10 years to compete for the national championships in their sport.
Never miss a local story.
This year, as in the past, there are four divisions: masters, mixed, open and women’s.
The masters championship game is 3:45 p.m. today at the Polo Club, near the southwest corner of Lorraine Road and University Parkway.
The mixed championship game, matching teams made up of men and women, is scheduled 9 a.m. Sunday.
The women’s division championships are 11:45 a.m. Sunday and the open championship, featuring the top men in the world, is set for 2:30 p.m. Spectators are not only welcome, but appreciated, the players said.
So, what is this sport about? It’s not about leaping dogs catching discs, as some players say they are weary of explaining.
The object of Ultimate is to score by passing the disc to a teammate in the other team’s end zone. Players can’t move once they have caught the disc. They have 10 seconds to give up the disc.
“For me, there is nothing like it,” said nursing student Molly Hareid, 30, who has lived in Lakewood Ranch and is part of the mixed team Jukebox Hero.
Hareid is a “receiver” or cutter. Her mission is to break deep, like a wide receiver, and leap for throws, which are called “hucks” in the end zone.
“Molly is a great athlete,” said teammate Clancy Shannon. “I’ve seen her lay out for a huck. She has great speed.”
Ultimate, not Ultimate Frisbee, is the correct reference because Frisbee refers to a disc made by Wham-O and is not even the disc used in the sport. The competition is perhaps closest to basketball and hockey.
Its most exciting play, of course, is the long huck and the lay-out in the end zone.
“Every team has offensive systems,” Hasselman said. “I’ve seen scores on two passes or 100. It’s a great sport. These athletes train hard and are totally dedicated.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.