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Sunday, May 29, 2022

UF's ultimate Frisbee takes national championship

Squishy the Gerbil might be UF's least-known mascot.

This is probably because Florida Ultimate's A-Team just bought him on Friday as it began the USA Ultimate College Championships series in Madison, Wis.

Squishy brought good luck, as Florida defeated Carleton College 15-12 in the tournament finals Monday afternoon, giving the team the national championship.

Florida won six of seven games over the weekend, culminating in the victory over Carleton College.

"We never were really tested by any other team," said senior team member and captain Chris Gibson. "They are kind of our rivals, and we didn't even get to play until this match."

The Florida Ulitmate stayed calm throughout the game, even facing a team whose school "put[s] a Frisbee in every student's preview bag," he said.

Florida was seeded No. 4 with a 15-game win streak going into the tournament; before the weekend, they were 32-5.

The team was led, in part, by fifth-year senior and captain Brodie Smith, who was the runner-up this year for the Callahan Award, which goes to the most valuable player in the nation.

"That award didn't really matter to me," Smith said.

Sophomore Alan Baird, one of the team's three underclassmen at nationals, agreed.

"We didn't want it to affect us this year, whether he wanted it or not," Baird said.

The team is kind of like a miniature sports fraternity, said senior Cole Sullivan.

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During the school year, five of the teammates live together in a house dubbed "The Glory Hole." During the weeks between the end of spring semester and the tournament in Madison, more of the team piled in.

"We just lined up," Gibson said. "We stacked extra mattresses next to mine in the living room. All we did was play Frisbee and live at the Glory Hole," said Gibson.

Whether it was the gerbil, the gaming, the cozy sleeping quarters or just the frequent practices, something was working for the team.

"It was the best three weeks you can possibly have when you are sleeping on the floor, when you are sharing it with three people and [there's] no air conditioning," Baird said.

Despite setbacks such as losing seniors like Smith, as well as coach Jonathan Windham, who moved away from Gainesville in April, the players are optimistic for next year.

Unlike Baird and Sullivan, Squishy the Gerbil is probably not looking forward to next year's season. The same day that team members bought him, they put him in a plastic gerbil ball and took him along while they played a game of disc golf.

"We put the ball inside this bush, so he could stay there until we were done with our playing," Gibson said. When the team returned from the game, the top of the ball was off and Squishy was gone. Gibson listed three possibilities: an animal got to Squishy, another person liberated him, or he "was really athletic and opened it himself."

Next year, with or without an escape-prone rodent for a mascot, the team expects further success.

"We're a program," Baird said, "not a team. We're a dynasty."

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