Kernow Ultimate taste success at first ever Mixed National Competition

David Langford reports on the impressive weekend for one of FXU’s lesser known sports teams.

It was a debut of dreams for Kernow Ultimate Frisbee last weekend, as they achieved a 3rd place finish in their first ever mixed national tournament showing, over 10 years since the club was founded. The two-day competition in Wolverhampton saw 40 teams travel the length of the British Isles to congregate at the annual University Mixed Indoor Nationals competition, of which few travelled further than Kernow, flying the black and white flag proudly for the county. The stage was set for a scintillating weekend of top-notch sport.

The Kernow Ultimate Mixed Indoor Nationals team, clockwise from top left; Robin Ellis – Cockcroft, Arthur Holt, club mascot George ‘The Kraken’ Perry, Joseph Mine, Tom Berry, Laura Goodhead, Hannah Davies, Luna Tilles, and Alejandra Piazzolla.
The Kernow Ultimate Mixed Indoor Nationals team, clockwise from top left; Robin Ellis – Cockcroft, Arthur Holt, club mascot George ‘The Kraken’ Perry, Joseph Mine, Tom Berry, Laura Goodhead, Hannah Davies, Luna Tilles, and Alejandra Piazzolla.

A society which was seeded from a little-known sport, Ultimate Frisbee, and nourished by many a devoted coach, committee member and player over the last decade, finally had the opportunity to compete at a national level. Kernow Ultimate, unashamedly proud to be Cornwall’s only competitive Frisbee team, made the 290 mile journey to compete at the annual meet for the very first time.

With last month’s unprecedented 5th place finish at the South West Regional tournament fresh in the minds of every one of the eight players and a fog of nerves and excitement all around, the expectations were minimal, but the hopes were high, for a weekend of success.

In the Second Division of the competition, Kernow were facing Bangor, Southampton and Hertfordshire in their initial pool games, a spread of decidedly unfamiliar teams, but no matter, as Kernow Ultimate lined up in the starting blocks for their first ever national game.

And out the blocks they came. Captain Rob Ellis-Cockcroft finding chemistry from the offset with Cornwall finest imports; Spain’s Alejandra and Italy’s Joseph, helped calm the initial nerves and let Kernow settle into a tough opener against Bangor. After Laura Goodhead’s opening score for the Krakens, points were exchanged equally between the teams for the most part, the result was decided on a few individual errors by the opposition, and a few expertly executed long plays giving Kernow a 7 – 5 victory.

Southampton followed, and with the winds of the first victory in their Cornish sails, aerial threat Tom ‘the Tower’ Berry, and the perpetually powered Arthur Holt began to put scores on the board, while Luna Tilles and the Hannah Davies put in a heroic shift for a resounding 11 – 4 victory.

Hertfordshire up next, and Kernow had their work cut out in a game of missed opportunity and overall lack of intensity against a team with experience on their side, resulting in a 5 – 9 defeat, and more pressingly leaving Kernow at the bottom of a three-way tie in the pool. Two wins from three games was nothing to be sniffed at however, and there was ample confidence going into the heats.

Newcastle up next, and with the towering Tom Berry proving form is temporary but class is permanent following a subdued game against Hertfordshire, the scores began to flow. The female contingent working relentlessly as a four-some registered multiple assists and scores, while Captain Rob and equally talented disc – handlers Joe and Arthur turned plays into points for another 11 – 5 victory. The Magpies were beaten, and the Krakens were climbing the ladder.

Surrey were the final opponents, completing a magical Saturday of national competition, and it seemed that fate had left the best game to last, as an intense and physical game ensued. Scores were exchanged evenly throughout the match as Rob and Joe’s throws provided yet more assists to an already impressive first-day tally, and some spectacular leaps from Arthur and Tom securing the points. The fiery Alejandra threw herself to the ground (and not for the first time that day) to pull off some spectacular catches and defensive blocks, while the relentless Laura also registered a vital point block in a game which proved what Kernow Ultimate could really bring to the party, in an incredible 9 – 8 victory against the strongest opponent of the day.

Photo: Mark Bunting. Captain Robin Ellis – Cockcroft getting air as he lays out in vain, toward the disc. Kernow Vs Aberdeen.
Photo: Mark Bunting. Captain Robin Ellis – Cockcroft getting air as he lays out in vain, toward the disc. Kernow Vs Aberdeen.

Sunday dawned, and so did the first adversary. Cambridge were not going to stand in the way of a rested and increasingly confident Kernow Ultimate, who dished out a 9 – 4 victory to take 7th place from the opposition. Team chemistry was strong and morale high, and looking ahead Bath University presented a big challenge that would be relished for being the rematch of a hard fought fixture from last month’s regional competition. A shaky start by both teams, as few points were scored in the opening 5 minutes and both teams were playing a decidedly defensive style of Frisbee. Alejandra and Captain Rob began to utilise their telepathic link to provide the build-up play, with help from Joe and Tom, while all others moved up the gears to increase the intensity and break down a tough opposition. Contributions from the entire team rounded off an incredible 6 – 4 victory to claim 3rd place in the division.

Two more games followed, with Kernow now unable to drop below 4th place, and with a chance to climb all the way to 1st providing two wins out of two followed. And it was Aberdeen who completed Kernow’s geographical mine-sweep of opponents, having already faced the Welsh, and teams from all four corners of England. A win in this penultimate game would secure 2nd place, with nowhere to go but up to the very top of the division. An experienced side with pace and height on their side, Aberdeen pushed a flagging Kernow team to the very edge, and despite their best efforts, an 8 – 6 loss prevailed, and Aberdeen would have the chance for 1st place this year, while Kernow would have to wait until 2017.

As the weekend drew to an end, only Leicester were left to play. What seemed borderline unthinkable at the start of the weekend, a podium finish was on the cards, with Kernow needing a win to hold 3rd and take home a medal.

With tired legs, but no lack of enthusiasm for the beautiful game, Captain Rob, whose relentless work all weekend for the team did not halt for even a second, finished with a strong showing of assists and a few majestic layout catches. Luna Tilles and Laura Goodhead added scores to the game with some impressive grabs, and the ever present Alejandra finished her weekend with yet more defensive blocks. Soaring into the air, Arthur and Tom both succeeded in producing impressive aerial scores, while Hannah provided legs to stretch the opposition as she had done all weekend. The game was over, and a 10 – 5 victory for the plucky, black-and-white clad Cornish travellers secured a fantastically high 3rd place finish, and one which the club can revel in for months to come.

A weekend of firsts, and a weekend that Captain Rob (featured above) could not be happier to have been a part of, as he had this to say on the team’s performance; “this is my 4th year with Kernow and easily the highest level we’ve ever been performing at. The 1st team was such a tight nit unit with huge heart and ability throughout and it was a rare pleasure to lead them in our first national campaign”. He went on to note his proudest moment as being “the huge strength in depth we’ve built through the entire team this year, to go from 15 to 50 at weekly training sessions in just a few years is incredible and makes me sure that while these are new heights for Kernow now, they will be scaled and far surpassed in the years to come”. The ambition of this rapidly growing team is certainly at the forefront of their plans moving forward, so for now Kernow Ultimate, dare to dream.

As always, watch this space for more updates as Kernow head to Men’s Regionals in the New Year.