SOUTH PORTLAND — Ben Field’s first leaping attempt came up empty. But the thing about flying discs – Frisbees in common vernacular – is they can come to earth slowly. Field had time to go for a second try.

With a sprinting all-out swan dive and finger-tip snag, Field turned his second chance into a championship-winning catch for Falmouth Ultimate at Saturday’s Maine Ultimate High School spring league championship, held at Wainwright Fields.

“I wanted to catch it. I was like, ‘I can’t drop this disc. I can’t miss this,’ ” Field said. “My parents actually met playing Ultimate so I’ve been playing a while. I’ve been throwing Frisbees my whole life.”

Falmouth beat Cape, 13-4. Games are played to 13 points, with one point for each score, or to a 75-minute time limit. It was Falmouth’s third straight boys’ A Division title, all three decided with title game wins against Cape.

The Fryeburg Academy girls also completed a three-peat in convincing fashion, beating Cumberland Ultimate 13-2 despite having eight seniors working on scanty sleep due to attending Project Graduation festivities.

Ultimate isn’t sanctioned by the Maine Principals’ Association but the seven-on-seven game played by advancing the disc with throws and catches has caught on as a club option with passionate players, especially in Greater Portland.

Started in 2009 by the nonprofit Maine Ultimate organization with eight boys’ teams, this year the high school league had 45 teams representing 15 towns/schools across four divisions: Boys A, Boys B, Girls and Mixed. Northern teams from Dexter, Islesboro, Belfast and Bangor that were in the league in 2015 did not participate in the weekly sessions this spring, though Belfast (and Camden) did send teams to Saturday’s championship tournament. Also, Thornton Academy fielded teams for the first time.

Belfast beat Thornton 13-5 to win the Boys’ B division and end over five hours of competition played across 15 fields.

“Growth is really about increasing the total number of players and the total towns,” said Tom Stoughton, the high school league director and Cape Elizabeth boys’ coach. “I think this year we’ll see an increase in player participation of 10 to 20 percent.”

The sport also emphasizes good sportsmanship with foul calls and disagreements settled by players. There are no referees. The concept of Spirit of the Game is so central to the sport that USA Ultimate has trademarked the slogan.

But the athletes in Saturday’s championship games clearly wanted to win, evidenced by muddied knees and elbows, and their sweat-stained club shirts.

“We really wanted to win,” said Bridget Bailey, a Fryeburg Academy standout with her passing and deep defense. “I don’t think we’ve lost a game in three years in Maine. So we don’t accept losing. We make sure we win all the time. We always push really hard.”

Fryeburg Academy is the only program in the state considered a varsity team by its school. The Raiders practice five days a week and also travel to out-of-state tournaments, finishing third in Amherst, Massachusetts and second in Vermont.

Falmouth also has a commitment to win, beginning practice in February, spending significant money to rent indoor turf time and starting a middle school team.

“Our kids love to play, that’s the biggest thing,” Falmouth boys’ coach Dylan McPhetres said. “They play year-round and that’s what they love to do, and on top of that we have a pretty good program.”

So how does a team balance success with Spirit of the Game?

If you’re Fryeburg you do things like get together in a two-team joint huddle after your semifinal against Falmouth and discuss what you liked about the game. For the Falmouth boys it was participating in a handstand showdown with Cape’s team, which Cape won handily.

“You really have to focus on being a big person and having good sportsmanship because if you don’t it just ruins the game for everyone,” Bailey said.

“It becomes harder to draw the line, especially in high school games where there’s such tough competition,” Olin Rhoads of Falmouth said. “But there are times when there’s a foul called or something goes wrong and everyone steps back and takes a breath, and they engage in a discussion that resolves the conflict.”

The sportsmanship concept was also emphasized at the tournament with the Spirit Award, which went to the Scarborough boys and South Portland girls. After each game, teams rank their opponents’ spirit on a scale of 1-to-5.

Ultimate is still an alternative to traditional spring sports, which all boast significantly larger participation numbers. Ultimate’s participation level of 600-650 combined boys and girls most closely resembles rates for Alpine skiing (498 in 2014-15) and Nordic skiing (645).

McPhetres, the Falmouth coach, said what’s changing just as rapidly is how and when players turn to Ultimate.

“When I started playing (21 years ago) there were like three high school teams in the country,” McPhetres said. “The growth is tremendous and I think the coolest thing is as kids start to play in middle school and high school, people choose Ultimate over other sports. The difference is in the level of athletes and how dedicated people are at a young age.”


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