The Natalie Veneziano Memorial Winter Whiteout Tournament will be hosted this coming weekend, Feb. 16-17. Knox frisbee alum Natalie Veneziano ‘98 was a bright light in the ultimate community on campus. After Veneziano tragically passed away in 2004 following her battle with leukemia, the program knew they had to carry on her legacy. The tournament was first hosted 25 years ago, but was renamed in Veneziano’s honor after she passed away. The tournament will include eight teams, three of which are from Knox.
There will be teams from Lawrence University, Cornell College, two teams from University of Northern Iowa, and a pick-up team from the Chicago area called Busse. As always, there will be an alumni team for Knox, with over 35 alumni expected to return. There are also two teams for Knox’s current players, an older team named Stall Wars and a younger team called Risky Frizness, both names being pop culture references.
On Saturday, the team has a dinner planned in the Lincoln Room where Veneziano’s family will be speaking about her legacy. This will be a celebratory event and is scheduled right after the day of games is completed. On Sunday, the current team will have what they call a “Spirit Circle” where they talk about the history of Knox Ultimate with alumni who started the program over 25 years ago, as well as the alumni who attended Knox more recently.
Junior captain Alec Hegg on the Stall Wars team says the team is preparing with their three weekly practices and one weekend practice. The teams split up during practice into two groups to maximize playing and practice time. The teams are divided by years of experience instead of A or B team to keep leadership and skill spread more evenly.
“The idea is that everyone gets the most out of the weekend. So, some of the players that haven’t been playing as long get to step into those leadership roles and get some playing time. And the older teams really get the chance to focus on those fine details without having to worry about overarching things,” Hegg said.
Junior and spirit captain Kylie Hoang is in her third year on the frisbee team. She said the divide between A and B teams in past years has been problematic because not only does experience get divided, but the leaders also get taken.
“We are trying to move away from using A and B team language. That’s just in order to facilitate growth in between the teams,” Hoang said. “What we found with A team B team, you strip the leadership from B team. You have a bunch of kids playing for 14 weeks max, and they’re lost on the field. But with this, you still have your developing players and your transfers who can lead the team.”
The idea is that the teams are divided into players that have been playing more than two years and then players that have been playing less than two years. This spreads the leadership throughout the teams. Junior Sam Beem is in his second year of playing frisbee after transferring to Knox at the start of Winter Term 2018. He is on Risky Frizness and is able to help lead the team and take on a bigger role.
“I came here in January. I decided to start playing and I love it,” Beem said.
Freshman Odette Herrand is playing her first year of frisbee and is looking forward to her first Winter Whiteout tournament. She joined because a friend suggested the team to her after she mentioned wanting to be more active in college.
“I’m super excited. It will be my first [indoor] tournament ever,” Herrand said.
For senior and captain Keara Crook, this is a great way to spend her last winter term. She is excited for the big anniversary tournament and can’t wait to see how all of the alumni teams match up. After graduation, Crook is thinking of trying out for some semi-professional teams depending on where she ends up.
“Depending on where I go, I will definitely be joining some teams. Maybe go to some tryouts for some professional-ish teams. As professional as ultimate gets. There’s a couple all around the states, and depending on where I go,” Crook said.
The tournament is open to all this President’s day weekend and runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Stop by and show the Ultimate team some support!