By Nathan DiCamillo and Jada Fisher
“I’m thankful for the entire Black Penguin team that helped get Olivet into the Ultimate Frisbee world in 2009-2010. I’d give a shout-out to the junior class of that season because they were all on the intramural team I started and captained all four years at ONU,” professional ultimate Frisbee player and ONU grad John Qaundt said.
A junior at ONU at the time, John Qaundt was one of 16 students who started the Black Penguins, ONU’s Ultimate Frisbee Club Team. Now he plays for the Seattle Raptors, a professional Ultimate Disc team in the Western Division of the American Ultimate Disc League, according to sraptors.com.
Encouraged by friends at ONU and Black Penguin alumni David Picone and Wes Siscoe, to go professional, Quandt tried out for the team after his friends recommended him to the Raptor’s coach, Ben Theilhorn.
Quandt has played pick-up frisbee since eighth grade. He did not start playing with a team or club until he started with the Black Penguins. With tougher opponents in the professional leagues, Quandt is learning under a coach “who has studied professional Frisbee and played international club.”
“If anything, going pro has taught me more fundamentals than I learned in college – Penguins were for fun where there was competition. Raptors has been a professional competition in a sport we love,” Quandt said.
A handler while playing for the Black Penguins, Quandt plays as a cutter for the Seattle Raptors, but hopes that his team will “become versatile enough to have most of [the players] play both.”
“John Quandt is a good man,” Siscoe said. “We both were founding members of the Black Penguins our junior year in 2009. We were then both co-captains our senior year. John was always pretty athletically dominant since he is built like a forward but can move like a guard. He was a strong leader on the field.”
Quandt played for ONU’s intramural Frisbee team, The Turkish Sailor, from 2007 to 2011. He played on the Black Penguins as a student from 2009 to 20011 and on the Black Penguins alumni team from 2011 to 2013.
The Western Division, the division in which the Raptors play, is debuting in 2014. The American Ultimate Disc League started with 8 teams in 2012 and added the Midwestern Division in 2013.
“There are many things going on currently with Ultimate, its two competing pro leagues, a long-standing elite club scene, growing youth programs, and an initial push for recognition from the [United States Olympic Committee]. All of this has the sport in division and growth all at once,” Picone said. “As far as JQ individually, he was always a great athlete and leader for our team. We struggled at times learning the game as a unit but we were always pushed mentally and physically to be the toughest team on the field thanks to JQ’s hard work and determination. I am excited to see him play and make a big name for himself in the Ultimate world.”
The Raptors play their first game against the Vancouver Riptide in Vancouver on April 19.
Even after Quandt’s graduation, the Black Penguins tradition has lived on. “We’re a bunch of guys that come together and exhaust ourselves, all for the love of ultimate Frisbee,” senior Jake Ryan, Black Penguins core member and cutter, said. The Black Penguins have practice on weekdays and compete on weekends in tournaments with teams from other colleges in their Division III.
The team’s schedule for the remaining season includes a tournament called “The Rock” in Rockford, Ill. after spring break, an invite in Chicago near the end of March – which may land them a spot at regionals, and another tournament here at Olivet’s intramural field. For the past two years the Black Penguins have been one of the top three teams. Last spring the team placed No. 3 out of 60 teams. In 2010, the Black Penguins competed in nationals.
“But it isn’t all about the sport,” Ryan said, “The teammates share a family dynamic. The mentality is also about being a family, having each other’s backs.”
The Black Penguins have monthly bonding events and a few traditions. On Saturday nights after a game they often eat at Chili’s and stop at Chipotle on Sundays.