-The following first appeared in The Floyd Press on April 28, 2016.
Mira Walker was first introduced to Ultimate Frisbee by her high school cross country track coach, Dawn Weeks, who organized pick-up games on athletes’ off-days.
Daughter of Kalinda Wycoff and David Walker, Walker attended Blue Mountain School as a pre-schooler and elementary student. She started public school in the 5th grade and graduated from Floyd County High School in 2005. While attending Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, she played in an Atlanta Ultimate Frisbee club team called the Ozones. That’s where her love of the game really took off.
This year Walker was chosen to play on the USA Ultimate Women’s World Team, which will be competing internationally in London from June 18 to 25. The World Ultimate & Guts Championships take place every four years, Walker said. Typically, the team that wins the USA National Tournament is chosen to compete in the World Championship, but this year USA Ultimate, the organization that promotes the sport, decided to have open try-outs, bringing players from lots of different teams together.
Out of 600 initial applicants for men’s, women’s and mixed teams, USA Ultimate invited 200, including Walker, to tryout. From there, organizers put together 71 athletes from all over the country and teams to compete in the World Games. “I was very excited and surprised to be invited to try-outs,” said Walker. She was the only athlete from the Southeast to have made the women’s team.
Ultimate Frisbee was invented in the late ‘60s. Walker compares the rules of the game to soccer. With 7 on 7 in continuous play and 24 teammates in total, players use their whole bodies and use a Frisbee disc instead of a ball. It’s a non-contact sport (although collisions do happen) that is played without referees and is guided by an honor system, known as “Spirit of the Game.”
Ultimate, is not an Olympic sport, yet. Walker explained that USA Ultimate organizers worked to get a seat on the Olympics committee. “The Olympics recognized ultimate as a potential sport for future games,” Walker said, adding that the Olympics committee is particularly interested in the fact that ultimate is the only field sport that has formal mixed teams, where men and women play together.
Walker isn’t the only Floyd Countian who has excelled at the sport. Johanna Neumann, a Blue Mountain School alumna and 1997 Floyd County High School graduate, played in the first American Ultimate Frisbee mixed team in Japan in the World Games of 2001, where they won Silver. She played again with USA Women’s Team in Italy in 2014, where they also took silver. Neumann, who currently lives in Massachusetts, also won the 2000 Callaghan award for the best female college frisbee player in the U.S. She wrote on Walker’s Facebook timeline, upon hearing that Walker made the team, “That is so awesome! FloydCounty represent! I will be cheering you on!”
The USA World Ultimate Teams are top competitors that have won gold in the past, Walker said. Japan and Canada are the Women’s USA team’s strongest competition. Japan’s Women’s Team won World in 20012. In London, the USA Women’s Team will compete against 25 other countries, including Belgium, Russia, Sweden, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Canada and more. India has a Women’s World Ultimate Team competing for the first time this year.
“We just had our first practice in San Francisco. It felt like a team right away,” Walker said. “Everyone was super welcoming and ready to work hard.” Walker’s next practice is April 23 and 24 in Seattle, where the U.S. team will scrimmage with the Canadian team. A final practice will take place over Memorial Day weekend in Washington D.C.
Walker has been to London several times before, both for fun and for work. She hopes to extend her visit for a week of free time before getting back to Atlanta, where she works for the city in their finance department. She invites anyone interested in following the games to check in with Facebook for updates (USAU Women’s National Team). CBS Sports will be airing the games. Although uniforms and some housing are provided for the athletes, they have to fund their own airfares. Many, including Walker, have set up RallyMe fundraising pages to help with expenses. Friends can support Walker in her Ultimate adventure by visiting HERE.