One doesn’t have to look too hard to see that Lone Peak Ultimate is a special team. The results of this year’s Utah State High School Ultimate Championships are a good start: Lone Peak’s A team won. Their B team took third. Their all-time record is 47-0. Since their founding in February 2011, Lone Peak has dominated the high school ultimate landscape in Utah. But the informed fan might look past their results on the field and notice that they’ve accomplished all this despite not participating in an aspect of ultimate revered by nearly every player and team: Sunday.
Yes, Lone Peak’s players are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, colloquially known as Mormons.
“Our religion does not mandate that we don’t play on Sundays, but it is encouraged and implied in the teachings,” says Coach Kroupa. All of the Lone Peak players elected not to play on Sundays. “I was often asked if this was just my choice or the players’ parents’ choice. It was not. The players themselves made this choice,” said Kroupa.
Sharing a religion has influenced the team in many ways. Most importantly, it gives them common ground to build off of. “Our religion is strongly focused on working with others and doing things together, and this helps with Ultimate because it takes a lot of team work to play well,” says Nate Olson, one of the team captains. “One of the reasons we are all so close is because we share the same beliefs.” Team closeness is a significant motivating factor in Lone Peak’s success. This foundation has fostered not only trust between teammates, but also the drive to build a better team together.
Conditioning is a fundamental ingredient to the recipe of success for Lone Peak. During the school year, the team practices at least twice a week, while during the summer they practice three times a week. Even when Couch David Kroupa tried to give the team a rest over winter break, the captains got the team conditioning in the halls of the school.
“I’m willing to bet it’s a lot more than other teams we have played,” says Olson on the subject of conditioning. “It helps a ton down the stretch when you get to game point situations.”
Lone Peak’s conditioning has paid huge dividends. Though the team was very inexperienced on the subject of ultimate strategy – and even throwing – during their first season, they still won each of their eighteen games, outrunning their opponents on both sides of the field.
Although Lone Peak is already a very successful program, like any other team, they strive for bigger challenges against stronger teams. In their quest for stronger competition Lone Peak faces a unique barrier: tournaments played on Sunday.
High School Westerns, one of the biggest tournaments of the season, was held in Utah this year. Lone Peak hoped to compete in Westerns in their home state, however their petition to USA Ultimate – to play Saturday and forfeit Sunday games – was denied.
Playing Westerns would have been the biggest and most important tournament in team history. To the Lone Peak players, however, there was no compromise. They held fast on their decision not to play.
Unable to compete at Westerns, Lone Peak contacted some of the teams that were attending the tournament and asked to play some games on Friday. Monarch (who eventually tied for 3rd) and Berkeley (5th) accepted Lone Peak’s challenge. Lone Peak won each game, 13-3 and 15-6 respectively.
Lone Peak attended Westerns as spectators. “It was bittersweet to watch the Westerns games, as there were a lot of close exciting games, but I do not think any of the teams were even better than Sky View from our own state (a team that also missed Westerns due to religious conflicts),” said Kroupa. One thing is for sure: had Lone Peak attended Westerns, there would have been some thrilling games.
As the team progresses from year to year, the lack of Sunday play will always be a limitation. For Lone Peak, however, it’s a tradeoff. Their shared religious and community background allows them to draw on cohesive forces other teams can only dream about. The future is bright for this young team.