The announcer, high in the stadium’s press box, had just announced a rain delay. The turf field at St. John’s was drenched, and the rain wasn’t slowing down. Kool-aid from the night before, meant to dye their hair the same purple as their jerseys, was puddling into a goopy mess. Someone’s mom had found a dryer nearby, and started collecting anything that was wet. The 14 Cretin Durham Hall teammates huddled together, waiting for the rain to stop, wondering if they would be the first ever State Champs. It was 2005, and the first Girls Ultimate High School State Championship was about to begin.
The last 15 years of High School Girls Ultimate has been an exciting story of growth, success, and community. It started the same way much in Ultimate has – with a humble beginning. From that humble beginning grew a field of Ultimate athletes, organizations, and a community who have all been improving Ultimate for over a decade. This year’s Minnesota High School season is only a few months away – so let’s take a look back at the history of the Minnesota Girls State Championships.
2004: Before High School Girls Ultimate
Ultimate in Minnesota looked a little different before 2005.
High school teams played exclusively mixed, usually at a ratio of five boys and two girls. Barbecues following league games were the norm. The 2003 state championship was played at a Blue Cross Blue Shield in Eagan. Things were a little less formal, less grandiose, and much more intimate.
Momentum in the Minnesota Ultimate community began building, and in 2005 a significant change was made. Minnesota High School Ultimate would now have two divisions: Open (available to both boys and girls), and Girls.
2005-2009: The Beginning
2005 marked the first ever Girls High School Ultimate season in Minnesota. There were only four girls teams during the inaugural season. Teams would make weekly trips1 to play league, including “half-way” trips to Albertville against Cathedral in St. Cloud. Afterwards teams would sing and cheer for one another – a tradition that still continues, in some fashion, today.
The 2005 State Championships were held in the football stadium at St. John’s. After a rain delay, Cretin Durham Hall defeated Hopkins to become the first ever Girls Ultimate State Champions.
It was during this time that a state-of-the-art online tool began to see widespread use, one that most Ultimate players of this era would have a love hate relationship with.
If you’ve never heard of Score Reporter, it was a tool used to report the outcomes of games and tournaments online. It was built by the Ultimate Player’s Association (UPA), which was USA Ultimate’s predecessor. These archives of Ultimate history can give a glimpse of what these first few years of State Championships were like.
In 2006, the MN State Championships first began to get recorded on Score Reporter. Cretin Durham Hall defeated Hopkins in the finals again, despite losing in pool play. This gave CDH their second state title. Excitingly, in 2006 the field of Girls teams expanded from 4 to 6.
Score Reporter provides another insight into the state tournament in 2007, with a short write-up.
In the women’s division, the initial seedings held through pool play with Cretin Derham-Hall going 5-0 relatively easily. In the finals, CDH met Hopkins in a highly anticipated game. Hopkins came out with a zone early and worked it up the field behind the strong play of Erica Baken. CDH played an effective huck and D game on offense and played tight person D. Hopkins was up 7-6 before a lightening delay. With the delay lifted, Hopkins scored again, taking the half. Hopkins scored one more before the softcap. But despite a 9-6 score and a game to 11 CDH came out firing behind the tremendous play of Natalie De Palma and Al Chlebeck, running off 5 in a row for the win.From: http://ultimate.scorereport.net/2007/tourn.cgi?div=33&id=3615
Cretin Durham Hall won their third state title, defeating Hopkins in the championship.
In 2008, one of the foundational tournaments of the Minnesota High School Ultimate scene (alongside the Granite City Classic) was created – the Hopkins Hustle2. A few new high school teams began experimenting with tournament life at the Hustle this year. The experiments paid off, as the 2008 State Championships saw an increase to 8 total teams, with the additions of Armstrong and Southwest. Once again, Cretin Durham Hall defeats Hopkins in the finals.
A year later, in 2009, more change occurs. St. Paul Charter fields a team and makes the State Championship for the first time. The Minnesota team playing in the UPA Youth Championships in August takes 1st in the spirit award, a major shift from their last place Spirit showing in 2007. And, for the first time, neither Hopkins nor Cretin Durham Hall make it to the finals at the state tournament. Cathedral defeats Minneapolis South 15-5.
2010 was a year of change for anyone that played Ultimate Frisbee. A fundamental shift in the sport occurred that year, as the Ultimate Player’s Association (UPA) rebranded itself as USA Ultimate. Along with the new name came a strategic shift from the organization, and a new score reporter.
Many of the links back to old tournaments during these four years are broken, including the Minnesota State Championships during this time. Fortunately, Minnesota Ultimate has kept some records online.
In 2010, Cathedral defeated Hopkins in the finals, winning their second state championship. Hopkins, having made it to 5 of the 6 total state finals up to this point, hadn’t been able to claim victory yet. As it were, this would be the last time they found themselves in a state finals game.
Minneapolis South, one of the oldest High School Girls teams, would defeat Cathedral in 2011, to become only the third school to win a state title, and end Cathedral’s back-to-back run. Interestingly, St. Paul Charter found themselves in semi-finals this year. This is impressive, considering they attended their first state championship tournament in 2009, only two years earlier.
St. Paul Charter would improve again, making it to the finals in 2012. But they would lose to Cathedral, who would be back on top – but for the last time this decade.
In 2013, the parity of the state championship begins to show. Two teams that had never made finals found themselves playing for the championship. Minneapolis Southwest ended up defeating Armstrong 12-7.
In 2014, records of the Minnesota High School Girls State Championships can again be found online. The story these records tell is one of immense growth. In 2009, there were 8 teams in the state championships. By 2014, 20 teams played in the state championships. This type of growth didn’t happen overnight – it was fostered by coaches, volunteers, and a growing High School Ultimate community in Minnesota.
2014-2019: A Thriving Community
With the significant increase of teams playing at the state tournament, comes a greater variety of teams making it to the finals. Starting in 2014, four different teams would win a state championship for the first time, and no team would win more than twice.
In 2014, Edina defeated Armstrong in the state finals. JV teams are beginning to show up at state around this time, showing the depth of the Ultimate community in some areas. Conferences, similar to the current structure, gave depth and seeding for the state tournament. By 2014, the state tournament is beginning to look like it does today.
2015 brings even more positive changes. A second division, D2, is added to the state championship. This change allows teams to compete a bit more evenly across their competition level. St. Paul Charter defeats Armstrong in the D1 final, and Southwest defeats St. Louis Park in the D2 final.
One of the great things about the history of Ultimate, at least in recent years, is advancements in technology. During my research for 2016, I found an artifact of Minnesota Ultimate History – a defunct hashtag for twitter. The hashtag (#usauMN) outlines two important aspects of social media. First, that it can serve a positive role in recording moments in sports. While the tag was only briefly used, you get a snapshot of what the tournament was like, snakes and all. Second, this hashtag reminds us all the importance of attaching a year to any relevant hashtag.
In Division 1, Great River defeats Apple Valley in the finals, in another year with two teams in the finals that have never made it before. For Division, 2, Eagan defeats Mounds View in a very close game, 8-6.
In 2017, Great River has a rematch with Apple Valley in the D1 finals. Great River is able to win in a tight 12-10 game,
becoming only the third team to win back-to-back state championships. (Editor’s Note: After their first state championship in 2015, St. Paul Charter changed their name to Great River. This means, they won back-to-back-to-back state championships, a 3-peat, in 2017). Edina JV defeat Como Park 9-8 in the Division 2 finals.
In 2018, Eagan beats Roseville 12-9 in the D1 finals, and Open World Learning beats St. Louis Park 9-7 in D2.
Last year, Edina defeated Eagan in D1 finals, and Open World Learning wins D2 finals again, beating the Edina JV team.
Growth, Competition, Community
It has been quite amazing to watch how far Girls High School Ultimate has come in Minnesota. Many of the players who attended the very first state tournament in 2005 are still playing Ultimate today. During this time, the state tournament has grown from 4 to 30 teams, split into two divisions, and grown some more. In the last 15 years, 8 different teams have won the Division 1 State championship.
Perhaps the best way to outline the growth of Girls High School Ultimate, is as a fan. In 2006, a fan who wanted to watch every single Girls High School Ultimate game at the state tournament3 would be able to watch a total of 19 games. By 2015, a fan would be able to watch 46 total games. That number has grown even higher in the last half decade.
2020 is the beginning of a new decade of Girls High School Ultimate in Minnesota. The growth and competition will continue to grow, because of the dedicated community behind this wonderful sport.
Thinking back to that rainy Sunday in 2005, it’s not hard to imagine the excitement those girls had. They were playing in a big stadium, announcer and all. They finally had real Ultimate jerseys, not cotton t shirts. It was the start of something bigger, something special. After all, it was their first, and the first, Minnesota Girls Ultimate State Championship.
1Travel was taken care of by athletes and parents – no school buses. Back to Article.
3Ignoring the fact that it would be impossible to watch three games at once… Back to Article.