This article was written by Ben Burelle, a VC Ultimate team member for life and otherwise know as BB73 - a legend in his own mind. You may or may not know Ben for being "funny" on Twitter and as the University of Victoria's 2018 Callahan nominee.
USAU D1 College Nationals Championships is the Holy Grail for college ultimate athletes: teams from all over the United States (and Canada!) compete for months in hopes of qualifying for one of the most exciting tournaments our sport has to offer. It also happens to be the weekend where alumni can be heard saying “college ultimate is way easier now than when I played” or “I would have been a big name in ultimate if I went to a top school…”
Luckily for me, I fall in the second category (college ultimate was way harder when I was in university, okay?) and Adriana, VC’s big boss, has asked me to write “a couch potato view of college nationals, highlighting the standout plays and biggest buzz moments.” First of all, how dare you. Second, here are the top 4 moments from College Nationals, as seen by your local neighbourhood couch potato. Enjoy.
#4 Dena Elimelech
2019 D1 College Nationals will forever be remembered for the emergence of Dena Elimelech, the clutch, highlight machine from UC California-San Diego. Prior to this weekend, I was confident in my prediction that Dartmouth would take the title – which team would be able to stop this year’s Callahan winner Jack Verzuh?
Turns out Dena was happy to accept the challenge. Her first big play that made it to the outside world was this insane layout on double-game point to send her team to the semifinals. Okay, Dena, you have all of our attention – that was a ridiculous grab. Then Dena decided ultimate was far too easy so she started catching the disc with her feet on double-game point of the finals. If you think Dena stopped there, you couldn’t be more wrong. She continues by flying through the air to save an errant pass (on double-game point) and secures the championship by punching in an assist to her teammate. Oh, she also got a footblock on Jack Verzuh, which I felt all the way up in Canada.
Dena’s the real deal and the hype she generated for ultimate, especially womxn’s ultimate, is amazing. ESPN included her two plays on double-game point on their Daily Newsletter. The crazy part is that these were simply the highlights we caught on film...I can’t imagine what else she managed to do when the cameras weren’t watching.
What more could you want in a #USAUD1CHAMPS quarterfinal? On double-game point, @UCSanDiego @psychoultimate's Dena Elimelech lays out into the end zone to get her team to the semifinals! (Clip provided by @SpinUltimate.) #USAUltimate #LegaciesStartHere pic.twitter.com/qCqXr2DNby— USA Ultimate (@USAUltimate) May 26, 2019
#3 The ‘Callahand’
UNC Darkside’s John McDonnell is 100% a wizard and USAU needs to add rules against using magic during a game. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, McDonnell used his lightning fast hands to catch a disc .001 seconds after it left his opponents hand. I wish I had more to say about this other than I have no idea how he managed to do it (other than magic of course). Anyone who knows me can attest it is hard to leave me speechless. Congratulations John ‘Merlin’ McDonnell, you were able to shut me up.
The "Callahand". @UNC @UNC_Darkside's John McDonnell gives us one of the most impressive plays of the #USAUD1CHAMPS. (Clip courtesy of @SpinUltimate) #LegaciesStartHere #USAUltimate pic.twitter.com/8mSNBW9Xis— USA Ultimate (@USAUltimate) May 27, 2019
#2 Change It
Jack Verzuh has been a strong advocate for trans rights in the ultimate community and beyond. Their latest article, titled “If you can’t print my pronouns, don’t use my face”, highlights the importance of allyship, proper use of pronouns, and trans rights (amongst other things). I highly recommend reading it.
However, here’s the highlight: during the Callahan award ceremony, I spotted Jack and their team wearing a purple shirt with some text on it. Eventually, I was able to make out this quote: “If your policy erases people, change it.” I would later learn these shirts were worn in protest of a Dartmouth policy that banned the team from using the word “womxn” instead of “women”.
I am always impressed by young people stepping up for what they believe in and for what is right. Dartmouth used their moment in the spotlight to generate conversations about an issue affecting people all over the world and for that I commend them. Change can only happen through purposeful action and conversation, and Darmouth nailed it.
#1 Joseph Fugate
I believe this point will be biased, but it was in my personal top moments and I wanted to share it with you.
A few years ago, I participated in the Reddit Secret Santa and sent one of my old jerseys off to a player in Tennessee. Since that day, I’ve been in contact with Yanni, a member of the UTC Swamp Donkey, and have been semi-invested in their team. On March 6, 2019, Joseph Fugate, a member of the Swamp Donkey team, was involved in a tragic car accident and passed away. His teammates nominated him for the 2019 Callahan Award to memorialize him and to recognize him as an outstanding ultimate player – Joseph was announced as a finalist.
During the Callahan Award Ceremony, those in attendance took the time to acknowledge Joseph as an amazing player and to pay tribute to a young man who was taken too soon. This was a top moment for me because it reinforced my belief that the ultimate community is special. I can only imagine the emotions Joseph’s family was feeling during the Callahan Ceremony, when thousands of people recognized Joseph as a Callahan-worthy player.
Thank you to everyone who voted for Joseph. #SwampLove #JF11
There you have it: a couch potato's favourite moments from USAU D1 College Nationals. I am aware that many of you may not agree with what's on this list and to that, I say this: TOO BAD!
Until next time,
Editor's note: Dena Elimelech was #1 for any of us lucky enough to be there and see these games in person.
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