Salzman ’19 to Represent U.S. at Under-24 World Ultimate Championships

By MIYO MCGINN

COURTESY PHOTO
Dylan Salzman ’19 looks for a pass at the Division III College National tournament in May 2018.

This J-term, Dylan Salzman ’19 received an email containing the news he had been hoping for, and working towards, for years: he’d been selected to represent the United States at the Under-24 World Ultimate Championships in Heidelberg, Germany, this summer. Reflecting on his achievement, he said, “It honestly still doesn’t feel real. But I guess it won’t until the tournament actually starts — there’s a big difference between seeing your name on a list and stepping onto the field in a jersey that says ‘USA.’”

Ultimate Frisbee isn’t an Olympic – or even varsity — sport, but there are still highly competitive national and international playing opportunities for elite ultimate players. The international governing body of ultimate, the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF), organizes international competitions at the youth, college-age, adult and masters level.

Salzman, a Political Science major and captain of the Middlebury Pranksters, the college’s club ultimate team, will be one of 74 athletes representing the United States across three divisions — men’s, women’s and mixed-gender — at the event. Salzman, who will compete on the men’s team, is one of only five athletes from Division III schools to be selected for any of the three teams.

The January roster announcement marked the end of a months-long selection process that began last summer. All U.S. national teams are selected and organized by USA Ultimate, the national governing body of the sport. In June and July, over 550 eligible athletes submitted written applications composed of questions about playing experience, on- and off-field skillset, sportsmanship and multiple letters of recommendation. From that application pool, two hundred athletes — one hundred men and one hundred women — received invitations to attend a tryout camp in November. Salzman’s teammate and fellow Prankster, Kai DeLorenzo ’20.5, also received an invitation to tryout camp.

Tryouts for the team occurred over two consecutive weekends, with invited athletes attending either the West or East coast tryout camps. Salzman traveled to California for the west coast tryout which, due to poor air conditions from forest fires, was moved five hours south at the last minute from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. The additional travel time and logistical inconveniences only added another level of difficulty to an already grueling weekend; once players arrived at the new field location, they still had twelve hours of drills and scrimmages designed to test their athleticism, endurance and skill over two days. Since the national teams will only have one week of practice together before the tournament, the coaches were also looking for players who could learn and adapt quickly to playing with unfamiliar teammates. “It was a big mental toughness weekend,” Salzman commented, looking back on the experience. “Staying focused and mentally dialed in was probably the hardest part of the whole thing.”

For Salzman, earning a spot on this roster was the payoff of years of work. Additional workouts on top of fall practices and tournaments with the Prankersters during the months leading up to tryouts were just the start. After attending tryouts for the under-20 national team in 2016 — which was, at the time, the highest level of play he’d experienced – Salzman decided to commit the time and effort required to improving into an elite player. “That was when I knew it was something I wanted to do, and could do.” After trying out for the previous U-24 team, in 2017, and gaining elite club experience during summers in Denver, Salzman set his sights on Heidelberg. “I knew the 2019 team was my team to make.”

Once the school year ends, Salzman will get the chance to train for, and play in a world championship with, Team USA. But at present, Salzman is focused on ultimate a little closer to home: his upcoming season with the Middlebury men’s club ultimate team. The Pranksters are expected to be nationally competitive this spring after returning all but three players from last year’s national semifinal-qualifying team. Joining this strong core of returners are several talented recruits, including a first year who played with the junior national team in 2018. “We have a really good group of guys – right now, I’m just excited to keep growing with this team.”

Editor’s Note: Miyo McGinn ’20 is a member of the Middlebury club women’s ultimate team, the Lady Pranksters, and played on Team USA at the 2016 World Junior Ultimate Championships.

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