Tanner Mayo wears the Lost Boys uniform and holds a disc as he talks about his experiences on North Park College’s ultimate team at this year’s Division 3 college championships.
IRON RIVER—West Iron County grad Tanner Mayo can say he has reached the ultimate heights of his athletic career—by nearing the heights in ultimate, the sport that’s a mix of football, soccer and Frisbee.
Mayo was a member of the North Park College team that finished third in the Division 3 College Open ultimate championships, held May 19-20 in Appleton, Wis.
In the end, the North Park Lost Boys lost to the Carleton College GOP (Gods of Plastic) in the semifinals. It’s better than North Park has ever done, Mayo said, and since the Lost Boys have a young lineup, the future looks bright.
Like most ultimate teams, the Lost Boys—the name comes from the Lost Boys in “Peter Pan”—play a club sport that is not funded by their school. Team members raise their own money to cover expenses and provided their own transportation from their Chicago campus to events in Nashville, Kansas City and St. Louis during the season. Last year, they went to Georgia.
“We’re not necessarily endorsed by our school,” Mayo explained. “But our school is starting to recognize that we’re the only [North Park] team to go to nationals. So they are trying to give us a little more support.”
This year, North Park’s student class organization chipped in with $760. “That’s really big,” he said. “That paid for our whole tournament.”
Having the national tournament in Appleton was a special treat, said Mayo, “Because my family got to come.”
The Lost Boys had entered the tourney seeded 10th in the 16-team field. But they took first in their pool by defeating the first and sixth ranked teams, despite a loss to the 15th seed, and didn’t have to play a crossover game, which would have been their fourth of the day.
“So we had a huge advantage going into Sunday.”
On Sunday, they faced St. Olaf College and won 14-11. “There was, like, a 20-mph wind, so it was harder to throw the disc.” The win put North Park in the third place game against Carleton College—both St. Olaf and Carleton are from Northfield, Minn.
That one didn’t go so well—the Gods of Plastic stomped out the Lost Boys 15-6. “We kind of fell apart,” Mayo said. “But we were in the semifinals of nationals, so we held third place overall in the nation.” The best North Park had done before that was fifth in 2011.
That made it a big day for the team’s seniors and for the team itself—North Park’s athletic director and soccer coach made the drive north to Appleton. “We’re a club sport,” Mayo said, “and he doesn’t need to be there for us. That was really cool to see.”
What is an ultimate (also called ultimate Frisbee) game like?
It’s played on a 70-by-40-yard field with 25-yard end zones. It’s 7-on-7, with teams trying to score points by throwing the plastic disc from one player to another, into the end zone—each time they do, it’s one point.
You can’t run with the disc; it can only be advanced by passing, and the passer has to be stationary when he throws. If a throw is dropped or intercepted or goes out of bounds or if the disc is held longer than 10 seconds, the other team takes possession.
You can throw forward or backward, short or long. “It’s a little easier to connect a Hail Mary in Frisbee than football, because the disc floats so much—it gets so slow.”
There is no physical contact, no blocking, no picks, screens or double-teams. And, usually, no officials—the players call their own fouls and resolve disputes. The emphasis is on sportsmanship, respecting opponents and fair play. (Learn more at www.usaultimate.org.)
While at West Iron, Mayo was involved in football, basketball, track and tennis, and he said they all prepared him for ultimate. But ultimate was the hardest of all—“You are throwing, you are catching, and you don’t stop.”
He first discovered ultimate through a youth group at Grace Covenant Church and Covenant Point Camp. “We’d play it Sunday after church. I was like, OK, this looks fun. Then I get down to North Park, and there was a team.
“I knew some people on the team, and they were encouraging me to go out--pretty much all the athletic people who don’t want to play any other sport. You get a lot of soccer people—they have the field presence and endurance.”
North Park is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church, “We try to be stewards on the field and off the field,” Mayo said, “to show an example to other schools. That’s why our team was started—to form a brotherhood.
“That’s why I think we are closer than most teams—because we always are around each other. Everybody on the team is my friend.” When he ran track during his freshman year at North Park, Mayo said, that team unity wasn’t there.
The ultimate team has no coach—just captains—and Mayo has been voted a captain for next year’s team. “They’re in charge of jerseys, tournament bids, rides, all this stuff, so I’m super excited about where our team is going next year.
Nine of the 19 members on this year’s team were freshmen. “We’re young,” Mayo said, “but I feel like we’re closer knit as a group than we have been in previous years.
“A good group of guys. I know I will be friends with them for the rest of my life. Frisbee has connected us.”