COLUMBIA--A red Frisbee slices through the dense heat into the hands of 16-year-old Joanna Zhang. She scans the field outlined in cones for an assortment of white T-shirts that serve as uniforms. As opponents approach with flailing arms, she slings the disc into the end zone where it is pinched from the sky by a fellow teammate.
Synchronized chants follow the play. From the sidelines, players scream out, “Co-mo-kaz-ee.”
Comokaze is a youth Ultimate Frisbee team that was launched in June by coach Seth Colaner. It debuted at the Show-Me State Games UltimateFrisbee tournament Saturday, and is the only youth Ultimate Frisbee program in Columbia.
“My contribution to ultimate is as an organizer,” Colaner said. “I want the sport to get bigger and better, and starting with youth is an excellent way to do that.”
At age 15, Zhang began gathering her friends to informally play ultimate behind Fairview Elementary School. Last year, the group decided to compete at the Show-Me State Games.
“We got our butts kicked,” Zhang said. “But it was okay because we had a lot of fun.”
Colaner had just moved to Columbia last summer when he attended the Games and met Zhang. He admired her initiative in getting her friends involved with the sport and decided to help organize a youth program for players age 19 and under.
“When there are kids already playing on their own, I feel like a good citizen of the ultimate community; it is my job to help them succeed,” Colaner said.
The team is currently looking for sponsors and volunteers to help expand the program. They plan to order jerseys next week and hope to compete in the USA Ultimate Youth Club Championship next August.
“Ultimate is growing so fast and there is so much interest in it,” Zhang said. “I’m really excited about the prospect of having a structured organization where we can come together as a community and learn more about the sport we love.”