UNC Scholarship Marks Turning Point

by | November 6, 2012, 1:45pm 0

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Men’s Ultimate program has been slowly building over the past few years.  With disappointing early exits from the College Series in 2010 and 2011, 2012 marked Darkside’s first journey to the College Championships since 2007.  Though the team did not finish as well as desired, this represented an important step in improving from a traditional Regional powerhouse to a consistent Championships contender.

Coincidentally, this year represented the first iteration of UNC Men’s Ultimate Scholarship.  The scholarship was set up by alumni who wanted to see the program continue to grow and succeed in the future.  Offering a scholarship to players on the team provides increased interest in playing on the team from incoming students who have played Ultimate before but also from students who have played other sports and are willing to try learning a new one.  Multiple rookies last season had a sports background that did not include ultimate.  The scholarship is formally announced to all potential new players at the first night of tryouts, though many have already learned about it from online sources.  The scholarship is given out to one freshman and one returner.  The freshman is awarded $1000 at the end of the season and the Returner is awarded $500.  Though the scholarship amount is not that high, it provides dedicated players with some extra money that can help offset some of the costs incurred while playing for the team (i.e. dues, jerseys, food at tournaments, etc.).  The scholarship is awarded to the players who make the largest positive contribution to the team.  Though on-field performance makes up a large portion of their role, their dedication to off-field team endeavors and indicated need is considered too.

This past year the scholarship for the returner was given to Christian Johnson, a sophomore.  Christian is from Chapel Hill and started playing Ultimate in middle school.  He went to Chapel Hill High School and continued played there.  His freshman and senior year they were state runners-up and his junior year they were state champs.  He played for a triangle area club team, LOS, in 2010 and after his first college season played for Ring of Fire.  He has continued playing with Ring this year and is part of their O-line cutting corps.  Christian has also been involved in Youth Ultimate in the area, helping coach his high school alma mater.  He has also helped out by observing TYUL games.  He is planning on trying out for the U-23 World’s team when the application becomes available.  Christian will be entering his Junior year as one of our top cutters on the O-line.  He will drop back and handle at times, but prefers to churn up and down the field.  He has continued to improve his throws and has a broad arsenal at his disposal, allowing him to be a weapon at any spot on the field.

Choosing the scholarship recipient for the top freshman on the team proved to be a bit more complex than the captains and coaches thought it would be at the beginning of the year.  Originally, there were five freshman on the team, but by the end of the season only two remained.  It was a tough decision for the team leaders to make due to the dedication and the hard work put in by the remaining two players, so in the end, the $1000 was split.

Justin Foster was one of the recipients.  He hails from Apex, North Carolina and attended Apex High School.  His freshman year of high school he ran cross country and wrestled.  He also discovered ultimate around that time and started playing pick-up.  His senior year he started a team at his high school and helped lead them to a fourth place finish at the state tournament.  He played for the YCC team in the triangle area and helps out his high school team when back home.  Justin was one of the few rookies who played on the O-line last year, filling the role of a cutter.  His quickness and small frame allow him to make agile moves and slip by defenders to catch key gainers on the unders and bust deep to score goals.  His development over the year was great, from often playing a more passive role on the field in the beginning to making well-timed and solid cuts by the end of the year.  This season we are excited to see him continue to develop and play an even larger role on the O-line.

The other recipient was Tim McAllister.  He is from Franklin, NC; a “good ole’ mountain boy.”  He went to Franklin High School and played football, ran track (hurdles), and swam.  Before entering his first year at UNC, Tim had never heard of ultimate and played for the first time at tryouts.  His athleticism was clear from the get go; the fact that he had never played before was also apparent from his throwing ability that left plenty of room for improvement.  However, Tim put in many hours before and after regular practices working on his throws with coaches and teammates.  His growth as an ultimate player was apparent by the end of the year when he filled the role of a solid defender and cutter for the D-line.  We are looking forward to his continued improvement this year and are sure that he will maintain his high work rate and dedication to the team.

The second year of UNC Men’s Ultimate Scholarship is underway with tryouts having finished and the season begun.  The increase in interest in the team was noted by the large number of inquiries from prospective players over the summer and another strong set of players at tryouts.  We are looking forward to seeing where this year will take us and are always looking to improve as individuals and as a team.  We hope that the ultimate scholarship will continue to aid us towards this end.

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