Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Sandpoint, Idaho

Last weekend I headed about three hours north and west of Missoula to one of the greatest little towns I've been to in a long time: Sandpoint, Idaho. Sandpoint has a population of about 6,500 people and sits on the shores of Lake Pend Orielle (French for "Ear Pendent"), a 43 mile long and 1,000 foot beauty of a lake if there ever was one. Here's a picture of the lake:

I was in Sandpoint for the first annual Mountain2Lake Ultimate Classic, an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. I'm an Ultimate junkie, although my days of trying to be a serious Ultimate athlete on a competitive club team are quickly giving way to playing more of a supportive role and having more fun. I played on a Missoula team of players, most of whom play the sport on a recreational level and not on the competitive level. Overall Missoula sent 21 folks on 3 different teams to the tourney. There were nine teams from as far away as Bozeman, Montana and Calgary, British Columbia. The tourney was very well organized for a first year tourney and even though two of the fields were less than stellar, overall the tournament was pretty awesome.

The 17 of us who played on the Missoula Booty "Simple Green" team had a fantastic weekend, going 3-1 on Saturday (our only loss was to Bozeman). We finished the day off with a big team swim in the lake. The tourney party featured a fantastic catered meal, a nice band and games of cups. On Sunday we got an immediate mental boost upon seeing the front Page of the Spokane newspapers' Sports section...there was an article about the tournament featuring a huge picture of one of our players. We faced Bozeman in the quarterfinals and came out strong before Bozeman took the lead, but we came back to take the half and never looked back, beating them 10-8 in a time capped game that featured some incredibly sick defense and multiple scores by one of our new players, Chelci "Marathon" Bruno. It was really fun for me to watch how much fun she was having. That set us up to play the second seeded Spokeheads. Watching them drill and warm-up I had serious doubts we could compete with them. They definitely had superior athletes on
the team but we were not to be denied: I can honestly say we played awesome. We had one guy that was flying around making huge layout D blocks and all the breaks went our way. We jumped up on them early and gained confidence with each score. They tried to clamp a zone on us and we shredded it. They tried to run a set play and we defended it. We
went up 5-1 and they called a timeout. We closed the half at 7-3 and poured it on. Everyone was on top of their game and smiles could be seen all around. They made a mini-run in the second half before we ended their comeback bid, winning 13-7.

Next came the tourney awards. Awards were given for most spirited male and female players, most spirited team, MVP male and MVP female. You could nominate someone from your own or another team. We were the winner for the most spirited team, two of our women were awarded the MVP female awards and one of our guys came home
with most spirited male award....Missoula represented!

Finally, the finals. We faced a well rested and superior team from Moscow, Idaho. The team had people from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Canada. They were all very good Ultimate players who could easily play at the next level. We had hoped to get a chance to play them, as three players from Missoula decided to play with them rather than us. They were a far superior team as was evident by their offense, which went through us like a hot knife through butter. Even if we hadn't been exhausted, hurt and inexperienced,
the Moscow team was just better. We dropped easy discs, clogged cuts and generally played like doo-doo. They creamed us....going up 9-0 before we could put a point on the board. We actually played a pretty good second half, losing that half 6-4, but overall they were just better in their 13-4 victory. From our perspective we were disappointed
to have played so great all weekend but to have nothing left in our tanks for the finals.

It really was a fun weekend. For some it was their first tourney, for others their first trip to a finals game and for others still it was a rekindling of that fire for the sport. Our team had 4 players over 40 and 4 more over 35. It was the first tourney in 11 years for Garrick, who played like a monster all weekend. It was the first tourney for his wife Kathryn, who was just so pleasant and fun all weekend. She had to leave early Sunday to drive back to Arlee, Montana in the Jocko Valley, where she is helping transform a farm into an organic farm. She was going to harvest raspberries.

The drive over to Sandpoint was unbelievable. We took HWY 200, which winds along the Clark Fork River and between the Cabinet Mountains and the Bitterrroot Range. The highway passes through the Salish & Kootenai lands of the Flathead Reservation and the Lolo & Kaanski National Forests. It is windy and full of wildlife so we had to be alert at all times. We took the highway on the way back, passing be the equally beautiful Lake Couer d'Alene.

Here's a picture of our team, happy and exhausted after taking 2nd place
Missoula Booty Simple Green
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