By: Rachel Giles
First-year student Marcelo Ruggiero has been playing ultimate frisbee for the past four years. He played for his high school in Arlington, VA and for DC’s club youth team, where he had the opportunity to go to Nationals. He currently plays for the men’s ultimate team at Mary Washington. However, this summer, Ruggiero is going to be part of an ultimate team representing the United States of America at the World Junior Ultimate Championship (WJUC) in Malmö, Sweden.
Ruggiero was persuaded into trying out for the WJUC team by his coaches. He said, “My high school coach tried out when he was my age and he made the team, so he said that I should look into trying out. My club coach told me to do it as well. It was really them pushing me to try out because they want to help grow the sport.”
The second weekend of November, Ruggiero and two hundred of the top ultimate youth athletes from the east coast competed at a tryout camp in North Carolina to prove they were ready to represent the United States at Worlds.
Ruggiero said, “It was a waiting game to apply, get accepted to try out, and then to try out. It was kind of a long process. We had the tryouts in November, and didn’t find anything out until January.”
After waiting patiently for two months, he finally received an email. Ruggiero said, “It was amazing to find out I had made the team. I had been taking care of my neighbor’s dog. I had just been feeding her, and I was walking back to my place. My parents had just got home from work. I looked on my phone, and I got a notification that said ‘Congratulations! You’re accepted.’ I just started freaking out.”
Years of experience and dedication to his sport had paid off. Ruggiero said, “My parents were excited. They saw me grow from starting freshman year [of high school], to getting leadership roles by senior year. It was nice for them to see me go up through the ranks.”
His parents will continue to support him on this journey to Worlds. Ruggiero said “They told me they’re saving up to go to Sweden. I think they’re going to get there a week before me and go to all the tourist spots. Then they’ll watch me in the competition.”
While his family enjoys sightseeing the week before, Ruggiero will be training with his WUJC teammates. According to the USA Ultimate website, the WJUC is expecting 54 teams from 30 different countries to participate in Malmö.
Ruggiero said, “The week before we actually fly out to Sweden, the whole team will come together for a training camp because we need the chance to play with the kids from the west coast. We need to build that chemistry before we go off to the tournament.”
The tournament will begin on July 18, 2020. Ruggiero said, “It’s five days of playing Frisbee, which is rough, but I think they’ve switched to a new format. It’ll be two or three games a day depending on how well you do. The championship is the last day. It builds up, from pool play, to bracket play, and then eliminations.”
Ruggiero will soon begin his training regimen, conditioning that will primarily focus on running and agility, which is essential to the sport.
When asked if there was anything he wished UMW students knew about ultimate, Ruggiero said, “A lot of times, when I say I play frisbee, people will think it’s throwing the frisbee into chains, the sport that older people play. They think it’s stationary. I always tell people to watch our highlight reels. It’s a lot of running. It’s constant running. There are seven people from each team, fourteen people on the field. We play on the soccer pitch which is pretty big, and it’s just constant running. Points will go on for ten, fifteen minutes. People should know how intense this sport is.”