Two queues of Islesboro Central high schoolers face each other. The first in line snaps a Frisbee to the first in the other line who dashes forward to snatch it out of the air and then races to the end of the line as the next pair repeats the process. Eagles Ultimate Frisbee team coach and Island Institute Fellow Alexandra Hodges calls out a number—how many times they catch the Frisbee. On May 8 right around 4:30 p.m., the team set its new record of 84 passes without a drop, amply demonstrating the skill and determination that shows why the Eagles have won four out of five games so far in a league that comprises 21 Maine high school teams.

At first, some students thought that Ultimate Frisbeee, the fastest growing high school sport in Maine, was a kind of ridiculous hippie-dippie sport. Under Hodges’ coaching, 14 of them decided that it was competitive enough, and required sufficient strategy and athleticism to be very cool and worth participating in.

So far the Eagles are the only island-based Ultimate team in Maine. Despite its size, with 38 students in its high school, Islesboro Central School (ICS) can, and does, compete against any opponent’s Ultimate team. Five girls and nine boys face teams from much larger schools.

Ultimate Frisbee combines elements of soccer, football and basketball. The field is 70 by 40 yards with a 25-yard-deep end zone. Seven players on the field at a time pass and catch the Frisbee with the purpose of driving deeper towards the end zone and preventing the other team from grabbing it. The equipment is simple: a regulation Frisbee that weighs 175 grams, and the athletes wear sneakers or shoes with cleats.

Hodges said it was her idea to start the team, “I started Ultimate Frisbee out here because I played it in college and loved it.” One student, Cameron Jack, a magnet student from Belfast, was the only ICS high schooler who had played the game previously.

The students elected islander Eli Legere and German exchange student Jacek Krajewski as team captains.

Coach Alex attributes the team’s success so far to a mix of athleticism, enthusiasm and determination. The team has to travel to Cumberland Fairground to compete, a bit of a haul, but they use time on the bus to discuss strategies.

One unique feature of the game, what Hodges describes as a “pillar” of the game, is that it is self-refereeing. The athletes themselves call out “foul” and the offender responds with “no contest” if they agree it was a foul, or “contest” if they believe it was not. The team discusses and determines whether it was or not. One ICS team member observed that the game requires honesty of the players.

Fouls include snatching or “stripping” the Frisbee out of another player’s hands. Once a player has the Frisbee in hand, he or she establishes a pivot foot and has 10 second to get rid of it by passing. “Fast counting,” another kind of foul, means that the 10 seconds are called out in less than real clock time.

This self-refereeing appeals to Ian Davis. “There aren’t so many rules and technicalities,” he says.

Kathryn Snyder finds the game appealing because it is unconventional. The students said they liked Ultimate so much because athletes really have to rely on and trust team members.

One game they played and won was against Cape Elizabeth, a more experienced team from a much larger school. Jacob Howell said, “We won because we ran faster and jumped higher.”

If they keep that up, they may very well find themselves in the championships in early June.

Sandy Oliver is a freelance contributor living on Islesboro.