The weather could not have been more perfect for these two ultimate-filled days in springtime Atlanta. The mild temperature and the lack of Atlanta’s notorious humidity drew hundreds of people to the fields for the Seventh Annual Paideia Cup.
In between games, inspired spectators would flood the fields to toss the disc or gather in clumps to try to sky one another. White discs sailed like seagulls over the green seas of the fields. It seems every teenager present could snap off a good flick. Not only has ultimate been played at Paideia for twenty years now, the fact that Michael Baccarini, the Paideia coach, is also a physical education teacher at Paideia, means that the fundamentals of ultimate creep into school activities.
Once the games started, the play was intense. Players from 14 teams sprinted, cut, threw, and laid out, giving it everything they had. In the end, of course, no matter how hard you work, how intense you play, one team emerges victorious.
Leading up to the main event, the semifinals took place at 10:45 a.m. In a tough game, Hopkins beat Neuqua Valley 13 to 10. In the other semifinals game Paideia HS (second seed) out of Atlanta beat Amherst by one with a score of 11 to 10. Paideia went up early in the game, 5-1, and it looked like they might waltz off with an easy victory, but one of the things that makes sports so exciting is the fact that the fortunes can change. Soon the game was tied at 10-10. Paideia took the pull, but then after only a few passes turned it over. Amherst then managed a few passes, but also turned. Paideia then worked it down the field, and in a series of three consecutive hair-raising moments including Mark Vandenburg’s pinpoint cross-field hammer, Paideia finally clinched the game as John Stubbs threw a beautiful bender to August Blair in the end zone. This was the first time Paideia had defeated Amherst in over a decade.
On Sunday at 9:00 a.m., the Holy Family Catholic team (fifth seed) out of Cincinnati played Columbia HS (sixth seed) out of Maplewood, New Jersey. Columbia won 12 to 10. Simultaneously, the South Eugene HS (third seed) out of Oregon beat the University School of Nashville (eighth seed) at a score of 13 to 7. At 12:30, Columbia High School lost to South Eugene HS at a score of 15 to 6. The Holy Family Catholic School also beat the University School of Nashville at a score of 13 to 9. Neuqua Valley (seventh seed) beat Amherst (first seed) with a close score of 15 to 14. This was an intensely contested game.
The most anticipated game of the afternoon was the final of Paideia versus Hopkins. Paideia had beaten Hopkins last year 11-2 in the howling winds of the Mudbath Tournament, but teams change every season and no one knew what to expect. Hopkins went up early 4-2 and never let go of the lead. HUrt proved themselves to be a fast, athletic team with an offense based on sharp cuts and crisp pass after crisp pass. In the end, it appeared that Hopkins’ depth was greater than Paideia’s, as Paideia found themselves playing with few subs the whole game. The ending score was 10 to 6.
One of the veteran players afterwards was heard to remark, too, that the spectators were among the loudest he had ever witnessed at an ultimate competition. The contingent cheering for Hopkins was particularly vociferous, at one point chanting, “Peace, love, flowers, we’re for everyone! Peace, love, flowers, we’re for everyone!”
The two teams quickly formed a line and continued to give each other high fives in a show sportsmanship. The open division of Paideia Cup was full of excitement and ended with an upset, although as stated in the preview article, seedings were difficult to make.
By about 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, the games were being wrapped up. The players were tired and the champions had been revealed. The fourth seeded squad from Hopkins High School out of Minneapolis, Minnesota had taken the spotlight and were deemed the champions of the 7th Paideia Cup. This feat had taken place just three years earlier in 2009 where Paideia had lost to Hopkins in the finals. The Paideia Ultimate team came in 2nd place for the fifth year in a row. Great sportsmanship was continuously exhibited throughout the tournament leaving Paideia and the University School of Nashville tied for Spirit awards.
In the Girls Division final, Paideia defeated Holy Family Catholic 15-8 in the final. While the Paideia women’s team went undefeated through the tournament, Rachel Kramer, a junior, and one of the standouts on the Paideia team noted that, “All of the games were hard. The competition was strong.”
The 7th Paideia Cup was a wonderful event, and although the reporting comes down in the end to who won and who lost, every ultimate fan knows that the story is so much bigger than that. It is about the wonderful intensity of living that competition creates; it is about the delight in participating in play; and from the outside, while it may look like we are working against one another, truly we are all sharing the same wonderful game and its spirit. This is what it is all about.
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Feature photo by Christina Schmidt (UltiPhotos.com)