Hungry Hungry Hippos bring an appetite for ultimate frisbee to GW

No shirt, no shoes – that’s fine, but how about a dress?

Welcome to the counterculture known as ultimate frisbee. With music in the background and people wearing anything from women’s clothing to traditional athletic gear, this game relies as much on its social traditions – or lack thereof – as on the sport itself.

But the casually dressed founder of the GW ultimate frisbee club, junior Dave Watermulder, said he doesn’t usually wear dresses when he plays.

“More like a plaid skirt,” he said. “Like a naughty little school girl.”

While it is hard to take Watermulder seriously, it is impossible to underestimate the competitive strides the club, also known as the Hungry Hungry Hippos, has taken in only its second year of existence. The club has quickly succeeded in finding active participants and fielding a competitive team. On a typical practice day, anywhere from 20 to 30 enthusiasts come out to participate in drills and scrimmages.

The club has had success in competition as well. The Hippos took fourth in their sectionals last year with competition ranging from the University of Maryland to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Frisbee competitions are split into fall and spring seasons. During the fall, the Hippos play any team, associated with a college or not. Often they find tournaments or games on the Internet, usually locals who just want to scrimmage. In the spring, the competition is slightly more serious. The Hippos only play college teams and work with the goal of reaching the regional and national tournaments.

“Our team is motivated to play so we search for games and try to improve,” Watermulder said.

Although winning is the first priority of the club, having fun is also an important part of what the Hippos do.

“It’s ridiculous how much fun it is, when you go to tournaments and games and everyone is totally silly,” said McKenzy Moore, who joined the Hippos as one of four girls last year. “That’s the thing about this, you can cheer people, dance around if you want – this game is awesome.”

Watermulder, the recognized leader of the Hippos, loves to hear the enthusiasm of the club members. Coming to GW as a transfer student, he was unsure whether a frisbee team would catch on here.

“Actually I had no friends, per se, and this was something I wanted to do,” Watermulder said.

Even though the Hippos are a highly competitive team, they are not beyond bringing new people into their family. Senior Stacey Maiano started playing just this year. While it was rough going at first – resulting in a few frisbee shots to the head – she seems to have settled in nicely.

“They call me `Heads Up’ because I broke my nose playing,” she said. “Actually, it just happened to me again today, I just got hit in the face.”

Outside of an early injury, Maiano and Moore enjoy playing a game that is typically blind to gender.

“Sometimes we play coed or we have separate teams, it just depends on how many people show up,” Moore said. “We can definitely play with the guys, though.”

Nevertheless, it’s the friendships that have really solidified their support for the team.

“It’s amazing, the spirit and camaraderie on this team,” Moore said. “Other teams have commented to us that they wish they had the spirit that we have.”

“Honestly, this is the best thing I’ve ever done,” Maiano said. “You think you’re set for your senior year, with who your friends are and your place at school, but that is just not the case. I have made 44 new friends since I’ve been here.”

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