Horsecows, Manti Fly High on the Field
The game of Ultimate Frisbee, known officially today as Ultimate, took hold at Oberlin College while the sport was still in relative infancy. In 1976, Doug Powers ’77 assembled a coed team of student athletes who branded themselves the Flying Horsecows. The team played their first intercollegiate game against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Known as intense, intellectually engaging, and an exciting non-contact sport, it has been a quintessential Oberlin club sport experience from day one. In keeping with the fun of the sport, the Horsecows and their female counterparts, the Preying Manti, compete against teams with such wacky names as the Swarthmore Swarming Earthworms, Cornell Rockin' Buds, and Wesleyan Nietzsch Factor.
Ultimate was born in 1968 as a sort of gag by a group of students at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. Among those students was Joel Silver, now a Hollywood film producer.
Ultimate combines the non-stop movement of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football. Two seven-player squads use a flying disc (also known as a Frisbee) and play on a field similar to football. Teams try to score by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone. Like basketball, Ultimate is a transition game. Players move quickly from offense to defense on turnovers that occur with a dropped pass, an interception, or when a player is caught holding the disc for more than 10 seconds.
In Ultimate, the rules are simpler and there are no referees. Ultimate organizers stress sportsmanship and fair play, a governing concept the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) calls the “Spirit of the Game.”
The Oberlin women formed the Preying Manti in the early 1990s and received their charter as a student organization in 1996. The men’s and women’s teams belong to the Great Lakes region and East Plains section of the UPA college division. Today’s squads boast 35 and 20 players, respectively.
The Horsecows have made four trips to the College Nationals, in 1992, 1995, 1997, and 1999. The Horsecows finished second in the College Regionals tournament in spring 2004, losing to Ohio State University. The Manti last qualified for the College Nationals in 1997.
In the fall 2007 season, the Horsecows and Manti co-hosted a home tournament titled Freedom Force. More than 20 teams from Midwest and Northeast colleges and universities competed in the two-day event. The Horsecows won.
Sources: Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Ultimate Players Association, Oberlin Club Sports Council, Geoffrey Blodgett’s Oberlin History (2006)