Sports & Outdoors

Athlete of the Issue: Luna Wagner

Photo caption: Luna Wagner getting ready to throw during a 2023 tournament in California. Photo by: Rodney Chen//UltiPhotos

By Kate Patterson

Congratulations to Athlete of the Issue Luna Wagner! Wagner is a first-year from Richmond, California who plays for Puget Sound’s Clearcut Ultimate. She recently was selected to represent the U.S. at the 2024 World Flying Disc Federation World Junior Ultimate Championships in the mixed division this summer. As one of only 72 athletes selected, Wagner clearly fris-belongs on the field. The Trail wishes Wagner the best of luck this summer and at Clearcut’s regionals tournament Apr. 13-14 near Portland, OR. 

Q: The 2024 World Junior Ultimate Championships will take place in Birmingham, England on July 20-27. Tell me about the process of preparing for this summer, and how preparations interact with Clearcut practices and tournaments. 

A: Because the team is scattered across the country and any form of physical gathering is difficult, we rarely practice together. The only times we will meet as a team is for one weekend in June and for a training camp during the week leading up to the tournament in July. That means that all other preparations are up to the individual. The coaches send a suggested workout routine but ultimately they know that they chose us for a reason so the coaches trust that players will continue to practice and workout on our own. This is helpful for me and Clearcut as it means I won’t have to miss any tournaments or practices and if anything, they are more important now than ever. 

Q: How do you expect representing the U.S. in England will feel similar or different compared to ‘normal’ tournaments?

A: In terms of how the tournament is run there will be a few new logistics. The biggest difference for me is that observers will be present. For the most part there are no refs in ultimate and it’s up to individuals to make calls. However, observers change this since they can provide input or even override a player’s call. Additionally, every country has a different style of playing that I’ll have to adjust to on the field. For example, some countries have stricter ideas about what a foul is and I will be tasked with adjusting my style of defense to ensure I am meeting their comfort level. 

  The entire tournament structure will be different too. Normally a tournament will last 2-3 days and a team can expect to play 3-5 games a day with each lasting about 90 minutes. In contrast, my understanding is that only 1-2 games will be played a day and this tournament will last an entire week instead of a weekend. This means a different form of endurance and athleticism will be required and I’m sure the post game recovery will be different since we’re expected to be at peak performance for a longer period of time. 

  Lastly, the obvious difference is that everything I do at this tournament will hold more weight. I will be competing for a world title instead of a league, state, or national title and as a person that has a significant amount of game anxiety, my mental preparations will be crucial. 

Q: What have you learned about the sport and yourself in this year of excitement and change where you were chosen for the national team? 

A: The biggest thing that this experience has taught me is that I need to stop letting my fear of failure limit me. Being so new to the sport (I started playing two years ago) I didn’t even consider applying to get an invite to try out for the team. I had friends that applied that had been playing for 5-7 years and I thought I was years out from being ready. I also didn’t want to get my hopes up or be seen as an overconfident player. Coaches from various teams talked to me and convinced me to submit the application because “it couldn’t hurt.” As you can probably guess I got the tryout and made the team. Making the team has shown me that it’s okay to apply for things that seem out of reach because sometimes they work out. Growing up I feared failure and often avoided things I might be bad at. This entire experience has shown how much those ideas have hindered me because if I had listened to them I wouldn’t be here now. 

Q: Ultimate frisbee is a very challenging sport, where many factors have to align in order to catch the frisbee. Would you be willing to share a funny or embarrassing story from frisbee, since I’m guessing even superstars like you make silly mistakes sometimes?

A: The most embarrassing thing I’ve done during a game was at High School Mixed States last year. It was senior year and our last game of the tournament and of the mixed season. I was on the sideline and turned to my best friend and realized it might be the last time I would play with him. So we made a plan to get on a line together and run one of our favorite plays. We got on the field and everything went perfectly! That was until it was time for me to catch the disc in the endzone. He had a perfect throw and I was wide open and literally watched the disc slip through my fingers and just dropped it! As if that wasn’t bad enough, once my teammate got a turn and we regained possession we tried it again and I dropped the disc! AGAIN! Even after a year he still makes fun of me. 

Q: What is your favorite memory with ultimate frisbee, at Puget Sound or beyond?

A: This is honestly such a hard question because there is no one memory. I think in general my favorite memories consist of the interactions I have with others in the community. Ultimate is truly such a unique sport where you can play one of the most intense and competitive games and at the end of it you’ll find yourself exchanging numbers or instagrams with players you admired from the other team. One example that comes to mind occurred this past summer. I was at Youth Club Championships and was playing a really good game against a team from Texas. During the game we found out that they had been performing a flash mob during half time since they were the ‘Texas Tengo’. We decided that at half time we would also do our flash mob so that we could all have a little dance moment. We were the ‘California Current’ so our dance was under sea themed and involved a lot of swimming motions. It ended up being a really cute and funny moment and at the end of the game we actually taught each other our dances and performed both together! A player from the team also asked me to sign her jersey and we actually ran into each other at world’s tryouts!