Sawyer Thompson set to wear stars & stripes at 2018 Under-24 World Ultimate Championship

  • Sawyer Thompson competes for the San Francisco FlameThrowers, a semi-professional ultimate team. Thompson will compete for the U.S. at the 2018 Under-24 World Championships in Perth, Australia. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Sawyer Thompson competes for the San Francisco FlameThrowers, a semi-professional ultimate team. Thompson will compete for the U.S. at the 2018 Under-24 World Championships in Perth, Australia. SUBMITTED PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 8/14/2017 9:14:01 PM

Sawyer Thompson began playing ultimate in the seventh grade for the Academy at Charlemont — shoeless.

“We all played barefoot and there was one team for the whole school,” the Williamsburg native said. “It was all about having a good time.”

The fun lasted until someone stepped on a rusty nail.

“We were annoyed at first because we were all having such a good time running around barefoot,” Thompson said.

Thompson, now 23, has since kept his shoes on and its led to a national honor. Thompson has been selected to play for the United States at the 2018 Under-24 World Ultimate Championship.

Tryouts were held in June in Colorado, where dozens of players gathered looking to represent the United States at the tournament, which will be held in Perth, Australia, in Jan. 7-13.

“(Tryouts) were pretty intense,” Thompson said. “You had to adjust to the elevation and it was really hot. There were a few people I actually knew from the Bay Area. There were a few players whose careers I’ve followed.”

Thompson first heard about the World Ultimate Championships while playing for Brown, where some of his older teammates had played for the Under-19 U.S. team.

“I immediately looked up to those players,” Thompson said. “I thought it was so cool that they had played for the U.S.”

Thompson sent an application to the U-24 team with a recommendation from the captain of Revolver, the Bay Area club team he plays for, Revolver.

Thompson left tryouts not knowing whether he made the two-time defending gold medalist team or not.

“It was an agonizing three weeks between tryouts and when they let me know,” Thompson said. “In some ways I played well at tryouts, I played really good defense which is something I’m known for, but I made some really bad decisions on offense so every night I was just reliving those moments.”

Eventually, an email arrived informing Thompson that he had made the team.

“It was pretty anti-climactic, but it was a nice surprise to wake up to,” Thompson said.

Players are required to be in Perth by Jan. 2, and will have to cover the cost of travel themselves. The team assists players with fundraising to cover as much of the cost as possible.

Thompson will not be fundraising, and has arranged for a two-week unpaid vacation with his employer, Google, where he works as a software engineer.

“Sometimes I can’t help but think of it as a way to fund my ultimate career,” Thompson said.

Along with Revolver, Thompson plays for the San Francisco FlameThrowers, a semi-professional team. The two teams worked out an arrangement that allowed some players from Revolver to play for the FlameThrowers.

“Revolver got to use the FlameThrowers’ season basically as a tryout,” Thompson said. “Right now the teams aren’t on the same level.”

The FlameThrowers play in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL), which has 24 teams and is the only semi-professional ultimate league after Major League Ultimate folded in the winter of 2016. The AUDL plays its games on football fields, which are longer and wider than the fields club teams play on.

Thompson said that the AUDL is geared toward making ultimate a spectator sport, with referees making calls instead of games being self-officiated as they are in high school and college.

Thompson spent the weekend playing for the fourth-seeded FlameThrowers in the AUDL playoffs. The team advanced to the semifinals and will play No. 1 Madison Radicals in Montreal. The semifinals and finals are held Aug. 26-27.

Revolver, meanwhile, is one of the best club teams in the country and Thompson said the higher level of play is noticeable to him. According to ultiworld.com, Revolver is ranked second nationally.

“I’m still adjusting to Revolver,” he said. “This is a team I kind of always dreamed of being on. It was weird going to tryouts and because I’ve been watching them through the years. Some call Revolver an ‘all-star team.’ They make a big point of being active with the local ultimate community.”

Revolver competes in the Triple Crown Tour, which is organized and run by USA Ultimate. Revolver is in the Pro Flight Division, which includes the top eight teams from the previous season’s postseason.

Revolver lost 14-13 to Boston-based Ironside in the 2016 national club finals.

“There’s a chance we won’t win” this year, Thompson said. “We saw (at the U.S. Open) that we aren’t unbeatable. The values on the team are intensity, humility and discipline. I think I’d be breaking from humility if I said we’re definitely going to win.”

The national championships are being held in Sarasota, Florida, in October. If Revolver makes it that far, Thompson will be sure to wear his shoes.

NOTES: Tannor Johnson, a member of the nationally ranked UMass club team, will play on the U.S. Mixed U-24 team in Perth.

Amherst Regional graduates Tulsa Douglas and Angela Zhu will both play on the Women’s U-24 U.S. team. Zhu is coming off a collegiate career where she led Dartmouth to the Division I national championship. She won the Callahan Award as the national’s offensive player of the year.




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