Local Ultimate Frisbee pro takes bronze at tourney

(March 20, 2015) Traveling with the “Beach Ultimate Kings of Asia,” West Ocean City resident Alex “AJ” Jacoski helped his team, the Boracay Dragons from the Philippines, take third place during last week’s World Championships, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Jacoski said he would relish the opportunity to compete in the Ultimate Frisbee tournament representing the USA, but having such a close working relationship with the Boracay Dragons, he felt it impossible to refuse their invitation.

He was flown out to practice and trained with the team and, in turn, he sponsored their trip to compete in the Ocean City Beach Classic last year. Boracay is located about 200 miles south of Manila where the average temperature is in the mid-to high 80s and the average low is in the upper 70s. Members of the Dragons team live, play and practice together every day.

“They came out of nowhere eight years ago and have finished second at the last two Beach World Championships, held every four years,” Jacoski said. “They are underdogs and fell to two powerhouse nations [Australia and U.S.] and have become crowd favorites. They live on a tropical island and train full-time on the beach, so their speed on the sand is unmatched and revered.”

This year, the Dragons met the U.S.A. in the semifinals. The game went down to the wire, with the U.S.A. winning on a sudden death or “universe” point.

“With so much on the line, there started to be a lot of calls,” Jacoski said.

Officiating in Beach Ultimate, like its turf counterpart, is player driven. Some tournaments and pro leagues use referees or observers, but in the majority of games it is the players making the calls.

With emotions running high both teams decided to take a “Spirit of the Game” break, where both squads gathered in one huddle and began talking out the issues they were seeing on the field. These breaks are usually only for a short time, but this one lingered for seven minutes, he said.

“That doesn’t happen in any other sport, and it’s a true sign of sportsmanship and conflict resolution,” Jacoski said.

The United States went on to win the division, and the Dragons bested Canada to take the bronze medal. Twenty-five countries were represented and approximately 1,100 players participated on 71 teams.

With his tournament season finished and his second season with American Ultimate Disc League professional team, D.C. Breeze, starting in early April, Jacoski is turning his attention back to Ocean City.

Pickup game ideas are already circulating among regular players because of the warmer weather.

Jacoski also heads up Ocean City Beach Ultimate and several regular pickup leagues in Ocean City and Berlin.

“Not many places [you] get to play on the beach and on turf; we have a very special thing here,” Jacoski said. “Our beach is perfect: scenic, soft sand and a beautiful ocean to cool (and clean) off in after hot, sandy games.”

Beach Ultimate is an offshoot of the game invented on turf in the U.S.A. during the late 1960s. It was recently recognized as its own sport with different strategy, field size and techniques. Beach Ultimate is often favored by older players because the softer playing surface reduces the chance of injury.

Ocean City Beach Ultimate is Jacoski’s brainchild, launched in 2014 with a June 4 –Aug. 6 season capped by a tournament, the Ocean City Beach Classic. Patterned after larger tournaments in Wildwood, N.J. and Boracay, Philippines, the Ocean City Beach Classic last year featured 11 teams. The greater Ocean City area had players featured on at least four of those teams, with two of them made up entirely of locals.

“Please see our website www.ocbeachultimate.com or search Ocean City Beach Ultimate on Facebook for details on the upcoming season,” Jacoski said. “The game requires a lot of running, a positive attitude and an open mind. Ultimate blends skills from many other sports so any experience will help you. New people start every year, from high school to players in their 50s.”

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