By Stan Friedman
SEATTLE, WA (August 22, 2014) — Covenanter and 2009 North Park University graduate Kelly Johnson recently achieved a dream when her Ultimate team, Seattle Riot, won the World Ultimate Club Championship in Lecco, Italy, on August 9, in just her first season with the team.
Ultimate is a non-contact, self-refereed team sport played with a flying disc (or Frisbee). The event is held every four years, with 32 teams from around the world competing for the crown.
We caught up with Johnson after she returned home from the tournament and vacation.
What is your general reaction to winning?
Still very surreal! It’s such a great feeling of accomplishment. We (Riot) have been relentless during our season. We’ve put in countless hours developing and refining offensive and defensive packages; we’ve poured tons of sweat in intense track and gym workouts; we’ve committed to being the best teammates we can be to support, love, and trust each other. Taking first in both the World Championship and also the Spirit Division validates all that hard work. It was such an amazing experience overall for our team. Winning was really the cherry on top.
Why did you decided to move to Seattle to play with Riot?
Being from the Midwest, I have always dreamed about playing for this team. Riot has such a legacy. Not only of depth and talent but of giving back to the Ultimate community as a whole. Seattle is such a rich community of knowledge and that’s something I wanted to soak up, so we decided to move for the Ultimate scene and to change our lifestyle to the West Coast. Exploring Seattle has been fun and playing for Riot is rewarding on many levels. It’s a team I have looked up to for quite some time, and I’m really enjoying investing into Riot’s 2014 legacy.
Is this completely amateur? What prize is there for winning?
Ultimate Frisbee is not a professional sport. There are two leagues that have been trying to establish a pro level for the men’s division but nothing yet for the women’s. The United States Olympic Committee gave Ultimate Frisbee USOC Recognition. This is a critical step to having Ultimate on track for future Olympics, which is very exciting!
Do you have a plan to continue to play with Riot?
Yes, I do plan to play with Riot in the future. The West Coast is a new adjustment coming from Chicago, but so far myself, my husband, Luke, and our two dogs are enjoying it. On the dock for 2015 is also a possible opportunity to represent USA at the 2015 World Championships of Beach Ultimate in Dubai. Four years ago, I represented USA in 2011 at the same tournament in Italy and we took home gold in the women’s division. Here’s hoping I get to play for that chance again!
How did you get started playing the sport?
I started playing Ultimate Frisbee at North Park! My first year, as a sophomore, I played a bit with the men’s team. This is when I met Luke who started the Ultimate program there. My last two years at North Park I played on and also captained Allihopa, the women’s team. After graduation, I went on to play at the elite club level with a team named Nemesis. The past five years I spent with that team.
To watch videos from the tournament, click here.
Editor’s note: Luke Johnson is the digital media producer for the Department of Communications of the Evangelical Covenant Church. He was not working in that capacity when he filmed the tournament.