By Jessica Creagan
VERO BEACH -- A newly minted Vero Beach High School graduate isn't taking the summer off to rest on his laurels before starting college, but he is planning a bit of traveling.
USA Ultimate, the national governing body for the sport of Ultimate Frisbee in the U.S. recently announced the athletes selected to represent the country at the World Flying Disc Federation's World Junior Ultimate Championships, and Vero Beach's Ryan Hiser made the cut.
The games will take place in Lecco, Italy next month and Team USA is looking to win its sixth straight gold medal in the event, a press release said.
Ryan was chosen after submitting an intensive application with letter of recommendation and going through two days of tryouts. He is one of 24 athletes to represent the U.S. in the 19-year-old and younger division of the championship.
"Everyone at Ultimate Frisbee in Vero Beach is very proud of Ryan's achievements," said Mark Ohlrich, Ultimate Frisbee in Vero Beach organizer.
The casual club that plays pick-up games in local parks three days a week is how Ryan first got started playing Ultimate Frisbee on a regular basis, and is what led him to help form a competitive high school club team, Verocious, in 2013. The team's first season was fruitful, producing a state championship win. This past year, his senior year, he was elected captain.
Ultimate Frisbee is a fast-paced sport that has grown in popularity during the past 20 years and is a favorite on college campuses in the U.S. and abroad, Ryan said.
"Some people hear about the sport and may think of hippies standing around throwing the Frisbee, or people tossing it to their dogs, but that's not what Ultimate Frisbee is," Ryan said.
The game is played with two teams of seven players. The objective of the team playing offense is to move the disc down the field toward the goal area, similar to a football end zone, by passing the disc from player to player.
The defending team can intercept the disc and the teams immediately must switch from offense to defense or vice versa as the game continues without stopping.
"There is a lot of running and a lot of passing. The way I play, I never give up on the Frisbee. I run, I lay out, I dive, because with Ultimate Frisbee as long as you catch the disc, even if it's an inch off the ground, you can still play it," Ryan said.
Mr. Ohlrich described Ryan as a "class act, on and off the field, and praised him for his accomplishments in Ultimate but also for maintaining a high academic rate of success in school all while playing high school football and playing in the school band.
"Regarding Ultimate, Hiser is a beast. When making a catch he literally attacks the disc and is nearly impossible to defend against. He is a decent handler and has a wicked hammer," Mr. Ohlrich said.
A "hammer" is a type of throwing style where the disc is launched high into the air to fly above an approaching defense, but lands accurately in front of a teammate.
"We are extremely excited that he won a spot to represent the U.S. in Italy this summer and we are also looking forward to seeing him at the University of Florida this fall and next spring," Mr. Ohlrich said.
Ryan has enjoyed introducing people to Ultimate Frisbee over the years and is excited about playing the sport he has grown up loving while attending college in Gainesville.
"One thing I like about the game is the spirit of the game. It's basically self-officiated, we don't have any referees. Everyone works on an honor system, and although it can get competitive, it's never malicious," he said.
It is quite common to hear opposing team members praise each other for good plays on the field, Ryan said.
"The people I've met playing Ultimate have been really nice and interesting people. To be competitive and stay friendly between players is what I really like about the sport," he said.
Florida has not yet made Ultimate Frisbee a sanctioned high school sport, so within the state there are clubs, similar to travel baseball teams, which meet together and play tournaments, Ryan sad.
Vero Beach's high school team, Verocious, has started a fundraising campaign to help their teammate pay for expenses related to his trip to Italy in July.
The fundraising goal is $3,500 and will help cover travel costs to a pre-trip practice and to travel to the championship game.
On the donation page, team members wrote that Ryan has been a valuable leader to them on and off the field.
"His commitment to high academics and volunteering in the community provide an example for our teammates to follow off the field. On the field he is a great captain that keeps us together. He always keeps our morale high and makes sure we stay motivate to perform at our highest," the team wrote.
Donations can be made at various levels, including the purchase of a $20 raffle ticket that comes with a chance to win an iPad Air, a $150 or a $50 Best Buy gift card.
To help Ryan go to Italy, visit www.fundly.com/help-veorcious-send-ryan-hiser-to-wjuc-2014 or send an email to email@example.com.
For more information about Ultimate Frisbee in Vero Beach and to learn about times and locations for pick up games, visit www.facebook.com/groups/ufinvb/?ref=br_tf