By Kristina Houck
Surrounded by their peers playing soccer, softball and other traditional sports, more than a dozen students tossed a Frisbee after school on the field at Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach. It was another weekly practice for the school’s new Ultimate Frisbee Club.
Identical twin sisters Ava and Lauren Hanna and their best friend Vanessa Beeler formed the club in late March.
“We were doing Frisbee in our PE unit, and since everyone was really getting into it, we thought we should start a club so that way it’s always here,” said 14-year-old Lauren. “And we did!”
Combining the non-stop movement and athletic endurance of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football, in Ultimate, two teams compete using a flying disc on a field with end zones. The object of the game is to score by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone.
The twins learned the sport from their father. Cliff Hanna, who has played the sport since college, went on to become an original member of the Atlanta-based Chain Lightning team, playing in a number of national championships. In 2011, Hanna and his fellow Team USA members earned a gold medal in the World Championships of Beach Ultimate.
Still a competitor, Hanna now also travels with his daughters when they compete in tournaments with Diego Ultimate Disc Experience, or DUDE, a San Diego-based league.
“It has a really good spirit,” said 13-year-old Vanessa, who noted her favorite part about the sport is that it is competitive without the use of referees. “Everyone’s always really honest.”
Ultimate is a self-officiated sport where players call their own infractions. Called “the Spirit of the Game,” the honor system promotes respect, sportsmanship and fair play.
“It’s part of the rules to have that attitude,” added Ava. “You want everyone to try their best even if they’re not on your team. It’s just a really nice vibe.”
Ultimate was developed in 1968 by a group of high school students in New Jersey. Today, an estimated 7 million people play the sport in more than 80 countries, according to USA Ultimate’s website. USA Ultimate is the national governing body for the sport in the United States.
“It’s all around the country and the world, but this is one of the spots where youth Ultimate hasn’t really started,” said Hanna, who lives with his family in Del Mar. “I’m really happy that these three are into it enough that they’re doing it on their own because that’s what it takes.”
The club meets for practice 2:30-4 p.m. every Friday. Currently an after-school club, the club’s founders have recently held a bake sale and set up a lemonade stand to raise funds so Team Discombobulaters can purchase jerseys and participate in tournaments.
Although all three founding members will be at Torrey Pines High School next year, they’re already recruiting some of their seventh grader teammates to lead the team in the fall.
“We want to raise awareness about the sport,” said Ava, who plans to start another Ultimate team with her sister and best friend in high school. “We want this sport to become something that’s really well known.”
To learn more about Ultimate, visit