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7Hills Classic, day 1

All in all, there were 6 teams: in addition to our squad, there was a team from Rwanda, a team from Makindye – a slum of Kampala, a team composed of rural Ugandans, and two teams from Kampala itself. Perhaps the best thing about this tournament was watching the home grown talent on display. While there were a few white people on the Rwanda and Kampala teams, our team was the only one that was composed entirely of expats. Unfortunately, Ultimate has not yet caught on among the local population in Kenya. Uganda, on the other hand, is trying to become the first African country to send a team to the World Ultimate Championship, and it was awesome to see these tall, lanky kids, some of whom were barefoot or wearing old, beat-up sneakers, run circles around us [For a good article on the rise of Ultimate in Uganda, click here]. There was definitely an athleticism gap between our squad and the Ugandan teams.

dsc_4243Saturday, the first day of the tournament, consisted of round robin play. There was only enough space for two fields, so games had to be capped at 45 minutes in order to ensure that all the teams could play five matches. Luckily, our schedule had us playing the weaker teams first, so we had time to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and to gel as a team before playing some of our tougher opponents. We took the first game 13-1, beating the rural Ugandan team, which had tons of energy but not a lot of frisbee skill. They had just started playing together, and lack of field space as well as the fact that none of the players live close to each other were telling setbacks in their skill development. Our second game was against Rwanda, and though we won 13-5, the game was not nearly as lopsided as the final score suggests.

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We then had a bye and watched the two Kampala squads duke it out. As one of the Ugandans remarked, “when two elephants fight, the grass suffers.” The game was close, but the elephants were not evenly matched – the Kampala team had split in two for the purposes of this tournament, but there was definitely an “A” team and a “B” team. Our third match was against Kampala B; it was close to start, but we pulled away to take the game 10-6 when the 45 minutes expired. Time likewise ran out on our match against Kampala A, another see-saw affair that ended 8-6 in our favor.

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We had a long break for lunch, which consisted of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, before playing our final game vs Makindye, a hotly contested back-and-forth battle that was knotted at 11-all when time expired. Because the game cannot end in a tie, we played one more point, which we scored to take the game 12-11. Most importantly, our 5-0 finish on day one earned us the top seed and a bye for the first round of day two. The latter was our biggest victory of the day because it meant we got to sleep in on Sunday.

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