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5-C Ultimate Frisbee Team, the Claremont Braineaters, Wins National Championships

Tommy Li on the Ultimate Frisbee team
Photo from the national championships for Ultimate Frisbee
2010-11 5-C Ultimate Frisbee team The Claremont Braineaters

In an exciting final match on May 22, the 5-College ultimate Frisbee team, the Claremont Braineaters, won the USA Ultimate Men’s Division III National Championship. Sixteen teams competed in the playoff tournament held May 21-22, in Buffalo, NY.

In addition, Markham Shofner ’11 was voted one of the top 10 players in the country by other ultimate players, and Tommy Li ’12 was voted as one of the top 14 players in the California, Arizona and New Mexico region. There are 87 D-III teams across the country, and more than 12,000 students compete across 700 teams around the country.

The Claremont Braineaters, which had a season record of 24-1, advanced to the playoffs by winning the Div. III conference championship held April 23-24, in Claremont.

In the national tournament, the Braineaters started strong, on Saturday, beating Colby 15-6, Swarthmore 12-9 and Truman State 13-8 to win their pool with a 3-0 record and earn a bye to the quarterfinals.

In an intense quarterfinal game, the Braineaters took on the Harding University Apocalypse. Harding took an early 4-2 lead and, according to the recap, was “still in control at 10-8.” The Braineaters then scored three quick breaks to take an 11-10 lead. Two more Harding goals followed but the Braineaters ignited to score the next three points for 14-12 win.

In the semi-final match, the Braineaters played the Missouri University of Science & Technology Miner Threat to a decisive 15-8 victory.

The championship match against St. John’s Bad Ass Monks (BAM) was another nail-biter with BAM taking an early 3-0 lead and keeping the lead until halfway through the game. Increasing their intensity, the Braineaters managed to tie the match at 6-6 and match another BAM goal to tie it again at 7. From there, the Claremont Braineaters were on fire with the game growing even more intense when a Logan Schumacher ’11 pass to Li began to fade away, and Li launched himself “fully horizontal and snagged the back end of the disc about four feet off the ground,” bringing the Braineaters to a 10-9 advantage. A Shofner pass to Devin Drewry ’13 brought the Braineaters to an 11-9 score, the win and the national Division III title.

For Riley MacPhee PO ’11, a captain and four-year member of the team, “The coolest part [of the championships] was that it was really competitive. We have a really strong team but in the quarterfinals and finals, we had really tough games where we went down several points. We didn’t win those outright. We won those games by coming back and having a lot of grit as a team…. It made the games way more intense…. We went in thinking our offense was our strength. But in these games our defensive line really stepped up and got us the stops we needed to take over the game again.”

For the 2010-11 year, the Braineaters had 32 members, including 16 from Pomona. Twenty-four players participated in the playoffs, including the following 14 Pomona students:

  • Class of 2011: Markham Shofner, Riley MacPhee, Logan Schumacher and Daniel Ross;
  • Class of 2012: Sam Trachtman and Tommy Li;
  • Class of 2013: Abe McKay, Jake Coleman, Devin Drewry, Nick Bordner, Daniel Geller and Ryan Wheeler;
  • Class of 2014: Michael Weil and Joel Fagliano.

Unable to attend were Alex Rudee ’11 and Ian Brown ’14.

The team also included: HMC’s Zachary Purdy ’13, Jack Newhouse ’12, Nate Pinsky ’13, Kevin Black ’12, Jon Witte ’12, Taylor Brent ’14, Brent Stapleton ’14, Edmund Mills ’11 and Ben Huppe ’14; CMC’s Carl Peaslee ’11, Drew Vinson ’11, Brent Spencer ’11, Jeffrey Park ’11 and Josh Rosenberg ’14; and Pitzer’s Jeremy Brecher-Haimson ’14 and Steve Jaworski ’11.

One big change for the team this year, according to MacPhee, was a conscious decision to focus not just on working hard but on being a team. “We worked hard on things like going out together, having parties and having fun in the field. That seemed to really turn things around for us. It made it so that we got a lot of new kids coming out once they saw the new direction we were going, and we saw a big increase in commitment and motivation…. [Players] loved the team because they loved hanging out and working hard with their friends on the team.”

The importance of camaraderie was echoed by Abe McKay. “The best thing about the team is that we try really hard, but the guys are very funny and keep things light. Everyone realizes we’re out there to have fun…. Whether we win or lose it’s great.” The team practiced twice a week, throughout the year, sometimes adding a track workout, and held a scrimmage on Saturdays, in addition to competing. “It’s a lot of time but it’s exercise and a lot of fun,” added McKay. “It’s all of your friends on the team so it’s certainly worth it.”

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