Montclair, NJ – If you ask a Montclair Geese ultimate player why they love this sport, the answer will not lie in its popularity within the MHS social strata. It’s got none of the cred of football, basketball, or soccer. It’s likely somewhere below volleyball but a smidge above bowling. As an “ultimate” mom, I see the kids drawn to it as those that love its fast-moving pace but not as much the aggression prized in other sports. They love the camaraderie of a team, but not the warring egos.
Built into the Ultimate rules is the “Spirit of the Game,” a set of ideals that call for the players to resolve disagreements and calls on the field without refs. It’s this core system that results in opposing players giving kudos to each other after a great play and leaving the field as friends after a fiercely fought game. A high “Spirit Score” can push a team ahead of another with slightly more wins in the league rankings.
That Spirit forms the foundation of the Geese. To a player, they are unafraid of expressing what this team means to them: “Playing ultimate I was able to find a group of kids that are some of the most caring and compassionate people that I know I will remain friends with for the rest of my life. The Ultimate community has allowed me to grow as a person and become my best self!” – Griffin Van Rhyn, MHS Senior.
Their commitment to the sport and each other has pushed this team, who three years ago didn’t have enough players to field a scrimmage, to a #10 ranking in the nation and #1 ranking in the Northeast. The JV Geese are currently ranked #11 in the Northeast, with the highest “Spirit Ranking” of any team. And there’s no Mama or Papa Goose at the helm. Until this season, when they brought on a coach for the JV squad, they were entirely self-taught. They secure practice fields on their own, spots in tournaments, run tournaments, coach themselves, and arrange transportation.
They’ve done so well on their own that they’re heading to the National High School Championships in Salt Lake City next month. Only the top 16 teams in the country are selected. The team started a fundraising drive on May 3rd to pay for the trip. In less than two weeks, the Geese surpassed their $30K goal, receiving a grand total of $32,000.
Local businesses also stepped up to help. The team’s sponsor all season has been the Montclair office of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty. And while training at Brain and Body Method, a new gym on Bellevue Ave, car racer Andre Lafond (MHS ‘20), asked owner, Mark Wieczorek, if his brother (ultimate player Max Lafond, MHS ’24) could train there to prepare for the high altitude of Salt Lake City. Brain and Body Method incorporates several fitness modalities, including oxygen training, to produce the same results achieved by elite athletes. Wieczorek offered to train the entire varsity ultimate team. The players will train there throughout May and June, with their fitness levels peaking in mid-June before they head to Salt Lake City.
For team seniors, getting to this tournament is the culmination of a four-year journey alongside many of their best friends: “One week ago a tournament was rained out and we only had two tournaments left, and then the news about nationals came out. I couldn’t believe it. One more ride with my brothers and the sport that I love so much. When you donate to us, I want you to know that you aren’t just supporting my love for the game, but all of ours,” – Lincoln Zaltas.
“Being invited to Nationals is so special to me. The Montclair Geese has been my home and community for the last four years. We have created unforgettable memories and friendships that mean the world to me.” – Dylan Pearson.
Summarizing their success, Elliot Albright says, “What I am most proud of is that we are still just a group of kids pushing each other to be the best we can be.”
As explained by three other seniors, getting to the National Championships is a celebration of all they’ve built on their own through a game they love. “Ultimate is a sport about spirit and sharing that spirit with not only your teammates but the opponents as well. Personally, my favorite thing about our team is the connection between each other. We have not only built chemistry on the field but also off the field creating strong bonds with each other,” says Josh Solomon.
A sentiment echoed by Eli Fellus, a senior at Glen Ridge High School (Because the Montclair Geese are not funded or sanctioned by the high school, kids from nearby towns without an ultimate team can join the Montclair group.): “My favorite part about playing ultimate is the camaraderie that’s built not just within the team but with other teams; there’s simply no other sport like it. Every team we play against, they’re our friends, and we congratulate them on amazing plays and lift them up when things aren’t going well for them.”
Senior Will Hojegian said he only tried out for ultimate because he felt like he “should do a sport, and the team didn’t require any tryouts or annoying paperwork. However, as the years have passed on, I’ve come to love the sport and even more so the team. I would love to go to Nationals with this amazing group of people!”
If you’re able, any amount from $1 and up is greatly appreciated to ensure the Geese fly high in Salt Lake: https://givebutter.com/kuzWSE/montclairultimate