Ultimate outlet: Woodbury grad Sandy Jorgensen one of country’s top Frisbee players
An athlete her entire life, Woodbury’s Sandy Jorgensen was looking for an outlet. What she found was Ultimate Frisbee. Now, she’s one of the country’s top players.
Jorgensen, 27, ran track, competed in Nordic skiing and played soccer at Woodbury High School before graduating in 2005. She went on to play two years of soccer and compete in track for three years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, before finding a niche with the sport of Ultimate.
“I was kind of looking for something else to do for fun,” Jorgensen said. “I tried a running club and a cycling team. I happened to run into these people who were playing Ultimate. I thought I’d go out for the team just for some exercise, but I fell in love with the sport, in particular the people, and have been playing ever since.”
Ultimate is like a mix of soccer, rugby and football without the tackling. The object of the game is to score points by passing the disc to a player in the opponent’s end zone. Players can’t run with the disc, and must keep a pivot foot on the ground while holding the disc. The game is played without referees and players call their own fouls — even on themselves — and do not argue foul calls. In 2008, CNBC reported 4.9 million people played Ultimate in the United States.
“It’s way more competitive and serious than I ever imagined,” Jorgensen said. “The people who play are so incredibly dedicated and athletic. It’s not the big pool of people who play something like soccer, but it’s definitely getting there.”
Jorgensen started playing Ultimate her fourth year of college after saying good-bye to track and soccer. After graduating from Wisconsin with triple majors in Finance, Economics, and International Political Economics in 2010, Jorgensen picked Georgetown Law School, where she graduated from last May. She is currently an Associate at Stewart and Stewart - a law firm specializing in international trade law in Washington, D.C.
“(Ultimate) may have had a little bit to do with why I chose Georgetown for law school, honestly,” Jorgensen said. “I wanted to be in the city, but it helped to know I could continue playing, had this group of friends and an outlet.”
In D.C., Jorgensen found a home with her current team - the DC Scandal. The Scandal won this year’s National Championship tournament in Texas this past October. Seeded third, the Scandal easily beat second-seeded Seattle Riot in the semifinals 15-7 and topped 7-time champion and No. 1-seeded San Francisco Fury 14-7 in the finals, which was televised by ESPN. Winning the tournament qualified the Scandal for the 2014 World Ultimate Club Championships which will take place Aug. 2-9 in Lecco, Italy.
Jorgensen said it hasn’t been easy balancing Ultimate with law school, and now, a job. The Scandal practices four to eight hours or plays tournaments every weekend of the season and she works out on her own during the week.
“During the season it’s mostly work and Frisbee,” Jorgensen said. “When I was in law school my time was more flexible. It was easy to say my weekends were my own. Now, it’s a little harder. There are times I have to get back to the hotel room, get the Wi-Fi going, so I can do research or write something. But, for me, it’s worth it.”
In addition to playing for the Scandal, Jorgensen was a member of the 2013 USA Ultimate World Games Mixed Team, made up of 20 men and women from across the country. Unfortunately, Jorgensen was not one of the final 13 players chosen for the 2013 World Games – the Olympics for alternative and lesser-known sports – in Cali, Columbia, where the team won gold.
“I think they were looking for people that were really consistent,” Jorgensen said. “I had a pretty poor tournament the week they made the decision. It’s hard to say, but I think that’s all it took.”
Jorgensen - a tall, lanky downfield threat and terrorizing defender – said her goal is to become more of a well-rounded player.
“I want to work on not just being an athletic girl out there, but to continue to improve my smarts, make better throws and be less impulsive,” she said.
Jorgensen hopes to model her game after fellow World Games Team member Beau Kittredge.
“I kind of aspire to be him,” she said. “He started out as just a tall, athletic guy, but over the years his throws have improved and he’s now probably the most dominant player at his position. I’d love to be able to reach that point.”
The players on the D.C. Scandal pay to play, along with covering the cost of travel, hotels and tournament fees. The team does have a uniform sponsor, however. There aren’t any significant professional Ultimate leagues, yet - which is a controversial topic in the community - and the sport isn’t recognized by the Olympics.
“It’s especially hard as a woman,” Jorgensen said. “People have not, historically, been willing to pay to watch women play sports to the extent they have for men. The women’s game has a long way to go there, so that’s something I don’t really think about, but I think it would be amazing to have it in the Olympics someday. I would love to play at that level.”
For now, however, Jorgensen is focused on her law career and making a run at another title next year.
“I would love to repeat our national championship,” Jorgensen said. “I want to prove that we really are the best and it wasn’t just a fluke in ending the Fury’s reign of dominance.”