Students vs alumni: The ultimate frisbee showdown

Charlotte Elliott, Campus Life Editor

Ultimate frisbee fans compete in Onionfest. Photo by Jake Lee.

On April 2, 2022, the Whitman Sweets of past and present went head-to-head in a battle for victory as part of the annual Onionfest. Supporters of both sides gathered at Martin Field to watch the teams compete, cheering on their favorites in a show of friendly rivalry.

Ultimate frisbee has long been a popular sport at Whitman and in the larger Walla Walla community. Onionfest is a chance for teams to enter into a two-day competition for fame and glory. The students vs alumni game is a tradition that acts as a showcase match where upperclassmen and former Sweets can battle it out. This year’s competition saw the current Sweets take the victory (13-9) which, according to senior Rain Naylor, is a welcome surprise.

“It is especially exciting that we won, since the alumni always win every year. That’s normally because the alumni who come back to play are often the ones who go on to play for high-level club teams, so they are really good players,” Naylor said. “Our advantage this year was partially due to the fact that club teams haven’t fully been competing the past few years.”

The game was not all about taking the trophy, however. It was also a chance for old teammates to reunite and share past memories and new skills.

“I like to think about how we’ve changed in their eyes also, seeing how for some the last time we played together we were first years who barely knew what we were doing, and now we’re seniors dominating the field,” Naylor said. “It’s awesome to be able to live inside that pocket of growth.”

For returning Sweet Sunshine Hays-Wehle ’17, the event was a welcome return to the community that he remembered from his time at Whitman.

“Being back at Whitman was a form of homecoming as it brought back so many memories and a great sense of comfort,” Hays-Wehle said. “Having the pandemic gap certainly adds a sense of distance between the current Sweets and the alumni, but we are still all one team.”

Teams aim for Onionfest victory. Photo by Jake Lee.

The halftime show was a time for any willing participant to join a line of locals in a competition to see who could eat a Walla Walla sweet onion the fastest. At that moment, there were no ‘former’ or ‘current’ students, it was all about the onion.

Senior Kate Traylor especially enjoyed the unity that came from having everyone back in the same place. It was a time for seeing old friends and sharing new stories.

“ I love playing frisbee with the Sweets. We’ve said before that when you join the Sweets, you’re joining a family, not just a team or even a program,” Traylor said. “Our family includes anyone who has ever called themselves a Sweet; from the first-years who first touched a frisbee in September, to the alums who graduated 10+ years ago. This weekend was full of a whole lotta Sweets love.”

Participants flock to Walla Walla for Onionfest. Photo by Jake Lee.

For more information about the Sweets, you can visit their instagram page, @whitman_sweets.