Seth Weaver, a senior biology major, was featured on ESPN 3 on October 27 in the Ultimate Frisbee National Championships.
Despite coming into the tournament ranked sixth in the USA Ultimate (USAU) Men’s Club
Division, Weaver’s team, Chicago Machine, made it to the finals. Machine fell just short of the
title, with a 13-12 loss to Seattle Sockeye, but Weaver himself put up an impressive performance with a number of key plays.
Machine signed Weaver in July 2019, but he has been playing Ultimate professionally since
February, when he was offered a spot on Chicago Wildfire, Chicago’s professional Frisbee team, after attending their open tryouts.
Weaver had been an avid Ultimate player for four years at Madison East High School in
Madison, Wisconsin but hadn’t played on an organized team since graduation. His three-year recess didn’t prove to be a problem: Wildfire offered Weaver a spot after tryouts. He signed early that spring.
Playing with Chicago Wildfire reminded Weaver of his passion for the sport. “I didn’t realize
how much I had missed it,” he said.
But he knew that he wanted to play at a higher level: “It sounds counterintuitive, but club Frisbee
is actually much more elite than professional Frisbee.” Based on the recommendations of his
Wildfire teammates, Weaver decided to try out for Machine. He made it, and now plays for both
Chicago Machine was in San Diego for the National Championships. The weekend long
tournament is the third leg of the Triple Crown Tour, which represents the highest level of
competitive Ultimate in North America.
The Tour features teams in three divisions: Men’s, Women’s and Mixed. Of those divisions,
teams are split into four tiers: Pro, Elite, Select and Classic. Chicago Machine is a member of the Pro flight.
Machine played in three games in the San Diego National Championships. On Friday, they
played San Francisco Revolver. With a final score of 15-13, Machine won by two points and
progressed to the next round.
In the Saturday evening semifinal game, the Machines went up against Pride of New York (PoNY).
Machine secured a win by five points. A final score of 15-10 knocked PoNY out of the
tournament and sent Machine to the finals.
Chicago Machine isn’t a classic heavyweight in the division. The team had never been in the
championships before, and it was only their first time in the semifinals of the tournament.
“We came in sixth seed, but felt like we were a top-three team there,” Weaver said. “We had a
bad start to the season, and sixth seed wasn’t representative of what we were.”
Weaver was excited as he took the field at Mira Mesa High School. “I don’t really get nervous”
he said. “As soon as we start playing, nerves go away; you’re just playing Frisbee, just tossing
The weather was cooler than it had been earlier in the weekend. With a fall in temperature,
another challenge appeared. “We were trying to calibrate to the wind,” Weaver said. “It changed
the dynamic of the game a little bit, it was harder to score in one of the end zones.”
At halftime, Seattle Sockeye was firmly in control. But the team’s four point lead disappeared
within minutes of the start of the second half. Weaver and his teammates’ intense defense forced Sockeye into a string of turnovers. Machine capitalized and brought the score to 12-12.
The teams held each other at a 12-12 tie for the majority of the second half, but with less than 10 minutes left, Dylan Freechild of Seattle Sockey clinched the game. With a pass to teammate
Jacob Janin, Freechild secured the Sockeyes their fourth national championship in program
history with a 13-12 win over Machine.
The championship was the last game of the club season. But Weaver still plans to play for
Wildfire at the start of the professional season in February 2020.
Balancing professional athletics and schoolwork hasn’t proven a problem for Weaver, so he’s
eager for the start of the new season.
“I got really lucky with my schedule,” he said. With Machine’s weekly Wednesday evening
practices in Chicago, Weaver didn’t get back to Goshen until late on those nights. But his Thursday mornings were completely free this semester.
“I don’t know what I would have done if I would have had class early,” he said. “Those few extra hours of sleep made it possible.”
Weaver is a dedicated student. And a well-rounded member of the Goshen College community:
he runs Cross Country for GC and sings in Vox Profundi. If he isn’t studying, running, singing or
travelling for a professional Ultimate game, he’s probably in the Ceramics lab. “I love to throw,”
Weaver said. “It’s just something I enjoy doing to turn my mind off.”
Although professional Ultimate has been possible during his time at GC, Weaver remains unsure about his future with the sport.
“Given the choice between professional athletics and school, I’ll always choose professional
athletics,” Weaver said satirically. Really, his main goal for next year is to study
Biochemistry at the graduate level. Playing Ultimate would be a bonus. “Hopefully I can get
into a program with a decent college team at a location that has a club and professional team,”
At this point, it is uncertain whether he will play for Machine again next season. “It’s all
dependent on where I go to graduate school,” he said. But either way, “I’m grateful for the
experiences that I’ve had on the professional level, and I want to keep playing Ultimate as long
as I can, even if it is just recreationally.”