A white plastic disc is flying in the Central Park air. It keeps going, going and going until finally it reaches the arms of a man in a cardinal shirt, senior John Roorbach. A typical play for an atypical team playing an atypical sport at an elite level. The Grady “Gauntlet” Ultimate Frisbee Team is one of the lesser known sports teams at Grady. Since their humble beginnings as a co-ed club team, the Gauntlet has expanded to four teams, Boys and Girls Varsity and JV. Grady possesses a program unrivaled by any Atlanta Public School, and is playing better than any other school in the state.
“We have really upped our competitiveness on a regional and now national level, and I think this is a direct result of the rise of ultimate frisbee in the community,” Roorbach said. “More and more kids are getting involved at a younger age and this allows for more experienced freshmen to come in each year.”
In 1968, the first game of ultimate was played at Columbia High School in New Jersey. Ever since then the spirit of the game has grown and is now played by over seven million people worldwide.
“The game is pretty new but has grown very fast,” junior James Dusenbury said. “I think it will keep on growing and one day be more popular than football.”
Not a traditional GHSA sport, the Gauntlet constantly battles for space, playing at the downtown Central Park and sparingly at Grady Stadium, but only when it’s available. These issues, however, have not stopped the boys varsity team from achieving success, as they have gotten big wins at the River Campus Tournament in Nashville, Tn. and placed second at the Deep Freeze Youth Ultimate Tournament in Chattanooga, Tn. and the Juniors Club Terminus tournament in Atlanta, Ga. as well as their second ever state championship win. These wins have helped to propel Grady to a 12th place ranking nationally for the Gauntlet in the Ultiworld High School Power Rankings.
“We’ve had a great season so far,” Dusenbury said. “We are still not done though. The ultimate goal is the national championship.”
The team is led by head coach Max Leonard, a founding player for the Gauntlet. He has since gone on to play at Grady Stadium for Atlanta’s professional ultimate team, the Hustle, in the American Ultimate Disc League, after playing for the University of Georgia ultimate team.
“Coach Leonard’s leadership has been huge for us,” Dusenbury said. “He uses his vast experiences in the game to put us in the best position to win.”
In the state playoffs, the Gauntlet dominated on their way to a state championship. In the quarterfinals, Grady beat Druid Hills 15-9, after the Red Devils kept it close before the Gauntlet went on a 4-0 run to close the game. In the semifinals Grady was matched up with Lakeside, and won 13-6 to earn a berth in the state championship game against the reigning champions Paideia. The opponent in the championship game for the Gauntlet, however, has been a tough out as Grady has never defeated national No. 13 Paideia in the state tournament. The first half of the state championship was neck and neck with the Gauntlet leading 7-6 at halftime before Grady went on a 6-2 to seal their first title since 2006.
“I was very excited, since it’s only the second time Grady has won the state championship, and the first time we’ve beaten Paideia in the state tournament,” junior Miles Pearlstein said. “Also we lost to Paideia last year in the championship last year in the championship game after beating them four times that season, so it felt good to beat them this year.”
Grady then rounded out play before regionals and nationals with its senior night game at Grady Stadium with a rematch against Paideia on May 3, a _________.
“The game is not extremely important in terms of national rankings since we’ve proven three times this season that we’re better than Paideia, but it’s important to us as Paideia is our biggest rival,” Pearlstein said. “We want our seniors to have a memory of a win over them on senior night.”
While most Grady athletes are resting or playing for a summer team by mid-May, the Gauntlet season is far from over. From Friday May 12 to Sunday May 14, the Gauntlet participated in the South Regional Tournament, where they competed with other nationally successful teams from the area.
“I fully expect to make finals at regionals,” Roorbach said.
After the early season success, Grady accepted an invite to the first ever National Invite Tournament in Rockford, Ill. on June 3 and 4.
“We can be a competitive team, and a potential finals team, at Nationals,” Roorbach said.