It was sunny and already hot when my family arrived to the fields in the morning. Shade tents lined the sidelines, and the teams had just begun playing. It was day two of the 2021 Minnesota Middle School state tournament.
The tournament, and the entire middle school league, had been pushed back 3 weeks due to COVID safety concerns. Many coaches were wearing masks, and I saw at least 1 team that was completely masked, while a few players here and there also chose to wear masks for the event.
One of the first things I noticed as I began walking around the fields, was the size of the event. Parents lined the sidelines as 13 teams competed in the morning. 16 more would arrive in the afternoon to finish competition. This was no small tournament!
Another standout feature of the tournament was the skill level of the players. The more I walked around, the more I recognized the clear cutting order of a vertical stack being run by many teams. The event was completely self officiated (following Spirit of the Game), and as far as I could tell was running smoothly. At one point, on the field to my left, a girl threw a beautiful low release backhand break across the field. At the same time, on the field to my right, a boy caught a spectacular layout goal.
It became clear very quickly that these kids had skills.
The middle school league functions as a mixed division, where both boys and girls compete on the same field together. This is a concept unique to Ultimate, but not unique to middle school. The club series in the United States has a mixed division all the way up to the national level, and the mixed teams from all over the world compete for the world championships as well.
This year, 30 middle school teams competed in a regular season from the end of April through the beginning of June. Then, on Saturday of the state tournament, the teams competed in pool play. Results from the pool play games seeded the teams into brackets for Sunday.
In the championship bracket, Andover Middle School snagged the one seed, and defeated Hopkins Middle School 2, and then Hopkins Middle School 1, to make the championship game. On the other side of the bracket, the two seed Ramsey Middle School, defeated Clara Barton Open School 1, and barely beat Great River School Sirius in a close game to make the championship. In the finals, Ramsey Middle School won in a very close game against Andover Middle School to win the 2021 state tournament.
Use the button below to view the full results for the 2021 Middle School State Tournament.
History of the Middle School League
The middle school league was started in Minnesota in 2012, by Anna Hron, Abby Hagel, and Jaime Fasset-Carman. That first year consisted of after-school clinics, mostly isolated from school to school.
In 2013, the league turned into a hat league. This allowed interested players to compete on a regular team, regardless of what school they attended.
From these humble beginnings, the middle school league grew. This year, 30 middle school teams competed in the 2021 middle school league.
Minnesota hosts one of the largest, if not the largest, middle school league in the nation.
And it’s still growing! Brit Gartner, the tournament director, was excited to share that, “Sixteen games had final scores within two points of the game winner!” Brit also wanted to share that, “There is plenty of space for the league to add in more teams!”
To join the middle school league, you can learn at MinnesotaUltimate.org.
Edits made 6/15 to correct some numbers and add a quote.