Published August 20, 2009, 10:18 AM

Summer is the ‘ultimate’ time for frisbee

Ultimate Frisbee is a game not many people know of, but for Josh Vopat, it’s one he lives and dies for.

By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal

CLOQUET, Minn. – Ultimate Frisbee is a game not many people know of, but for Josh Vopat, it’s one he lives and dies for.

Since the Cloquet native first played “ultimate” back in eighth grade, he hasn’t quit. Now, a seasoned-veteran, the 21-year-old Vopat has taken the time to develop and organize weekly games in Cloquet.

Call him an ultimate enthusiast.

“Ultimate is just something that I really enjoy,” said Vopat, who gathers roughly 30 high school and college students every Wednesday and Saturday evenings to play for about three hours at Pinehurst Park in Cloquet. “It’s just a fun game and something enjoyable to do with friends.”

Vopat got hooked on ultimate when he ran cross country for Cloquet. At the time, he played on Fridays with the team and also created pick-up games here and there with his buddies. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that the game became very serious to Vopat and his enjoyment in a fun game turned into a passion.

After a few phone calls to friends, games that regularly featured just a handful of players were bringing in 20, 30 and upwards of 40 kids to Pinehurst. After the quick success, Vopat received the keys from Cloquet City Hall in the summer of 2007 to turn on the park lights. A six-week, four-team league equipped with playoffs then emerged two summers ago and just this past year, jerseys were given courtesy of Papa Murphy’s.

“All of a sudden everything took off … we are getting more and more kids every week and now it’s just popular,” said Vopat, who explained there was a record-setting 80 kids who showed up one summer night. “At times it can be stressful organizing everything, but it’s so nice and rewarding to see everyone come out for a good time.”

The game itself is supposed to be played on a soccer field 7-on-7, but at Pinehurst, Vopat and his ultimate enthusiasts make things simple. Kids show up, captains pick teams and the games go on for hours.

A typical night usually features 15 kids for each squad, where the first to score 15 touchdowns wins. The goal is to advance the disc downfield by throwing it – much like a fast-paced version of football – and if it’s dropped or hits the ground, it’s ruled a turnover and the opposing team takes over from that position. Anything caught over the foul line or the end zone is ruled touchdown and as far as fouls go, well, it’s based on the honor system.

“Ultimate is a really fast game. It’s up and down and at times, can get quite competitive and intense,” said Vopat, a soon-to-be senior at Northern Michigan University and president of the Wildcats’ ultimate club team. “It’s just an exciting game that you can play almost anywhere. And no matter what skill level you are, just to be able to go out and throw the disc around is always a blast.”

Wednesday marked the last day of the summer ultimate season for Vopat and his bunch, but with everyone free over Thanksgiving break, the fourth Annual “Black Friday” game of ultimate is already being planned.

“Rain or shine, we’ll be there,” Vopat smiled. “We just have a blast out here.”