Michigan’s High Five Turning Heads With Rapid Success

Michigan's High Five.
Photo by Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

Wait, who’s High Five?

After a second place finish at New York’s Cazenovia followed by tournaments wins at both Cleveland’s No Surf and Toledo’s Motown Throwdown, High Five started to generate some Midwest buzz. Their successes led to an invitation to the Chesapeake Invite which they followed up with a strong performance at Chicago Heavyweights. How did this newly formed team out of Michigan get to this point?

Gone are the days of Big Ass Truck, colloquially known as BAT. The men’s team reigned as Michigan’s ultimate fixture from the late ’90’s through the early 2000’s. BAT was a perennial Nationals contender, making their final appearance at the big show in 2006, but according to former BAT player and High Five captain Matt Wilken, the team was “struggling to even get 14 guys out to practice [at the end of its existence].” After two years of disappointing losses during Regionals, Big Ass Truck dispersed.

Gone are the days of Overhaul. Beginning in 2009, Michigan’s mixed team made Nationals in all three years of its existence. With the top talent in the state, Overhaul finished 5th at their peak while finishing 13th last year, putting them in the “Elite” bracket of the Triple Crown Tour. Some of the men decided they wanted to try their hand in the Men’s Division, so Overhaul disbanded, making them the only team to turn down a TCT offer.

With talent coming from University of Michigan and Michigan State, two schools with a combined six College Nationals appearances since Big Ass Truck’s last finals appearance, people have wondered why Michigan was unable to form another men’s team rather than simply starting Overhaul in the mixed division.

“When Overhaul started, it made sense for everyone involved,” said Wilken. “There was a really strong mix of both men and women, just not quite enough to field a full team of either.”

Now, though, the men are ready for another shot at the Club Championships on their own. With a record of 28-6, High Five has already made waves during the regular season. And they have taken done some quality competition along the way, including perennial Nationals contenders Sub Zero, Truck Stop, and Ring of Fire. They also took some close losses to Ironside, Chain Lightning, and GOAT, finishing within three points of each team.

High Five has some proven talent, including Wilken, whose extensive experience includes stints with Machine, Surly, and Big Ass Truck, as well as 2012 Overhaul players Alex Edinger and Chris Skipper. The three of them form the leadership of the team.

High Five also has a collection of former Detroit Mechanix players including Wilken, Johnny Bansfield, and Christo Ferguson. While the Mechanix finished last in the American Ultimate Disc League’s Midwest division, High Five is trying to separate themselves from their AUDL counterpart.

“Some of our guys — myself included — played a handful of games with the Mechanix this season…We tried to work it out so that our two organizations could co-exist, but it just wasn’t in the cards” said Wilken. The players involved with High Five have no plans to work with the Mechanix moving forward.

The name “High Five” reflects not only the shape of its home state, but also the positive attitude the team is trying to cultivate.

“We want to play ultimate ‘the right way’, which for us means keeping a positive attitude both internally and outwardly towards our opponents, working hard to build and implement sound fundamental concepts, and really just enjoying our time together as friends,” Wilken said.

High Five has managed to stay positive and cheery throughout the season so far, but a 28-6 record tends to help keep morale high. They tested their high spirits in recent weeks at the Chesapeake Invite and Chicago Heavyweights with some encouraging results.

“We’ve seen that we can hang with just about anybody, as long as we bring our A game,” Wilken said. “The bar is high, and we’re not quite there yet, but I think we’re on the right path.”

High Five will have a great opportunity to make a lengthy run this year. With an 11th place spot in the TCT rankings, High Five has sealed a strength bid for the Great Lakes. They will likely be fighting Madcow for the number two spot at the Club Championships behind Machine.

High Five is ready to start a new chapter in Michigan ultimate; one that is beginning to read similarly to the ones on Overhaul and Big Ass Truck. Already, High Five has been seeing the success Michigan ultimate has seen time and time again. But don’t tell that to them.

“Win or lose, we want to get better every time we step out on the pitch,” said Wilken, “and if we can do that then our season will be a success regardless of outcomes.”

  1. Adam Velk
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    Adam began playing competitive ultimate at the University of Hartford where he graduated with with a degree in History. He captains the mixed club team Chicago Pizza Party. He also holds the unofficial record for most rushing yards in the Wauconda High School Homecoming Ultimate Frisbee tournament. You can email him at velk.adam@gmail.com.

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