The Donovan Award: The 2022 Finalists

The top five candidates in each division!

Ultiworld is excited to present the finalists for the sixth annual Donovan Award. The Donovan Award is a peer-voted award for the Division III player that best demonstrates an exceptional level of skill and athleticism on the field; upholds the principles of Spirit of the Game, equity, and fairness in their own actions, as well as holding teammates accountable to do the same; and is a leader off the field, both on their team and in the greater ultimate community.

Here are the five finalists in each division, listed alphabetically, with their bios from their nominations attached (some have been edited for clarity).

The 2022 Donovan Award winners will be announced Tuesday, June 28th, in a live presentation on Ultiworld’s YouTube channel.

Men’s Division

Beau De Koninck (Mary Washington)

Beau grew up in Arlington, VA, where he attended Washington Liberty High School. During his three years of high school ultimate, he developed a passion for the game. What attracted him the most in his early years was the sense of community that the sport creates. It was a space where a small group of people would exercise but more importantly enjoy themselves. The focus on the team’s happiness over any individuals is what cultivated life long relationships.

Beau continued to hone his skills through YCC teams, DC Deadrise and Foggy Bottom Boys, before attending the University of Mary Washington. Unlike other ultimate teams, Mother of George (MOG) has not had a consistent coach for the past three years. Beau has been the “coach” of MOG during this time. He shows up to every practice with a plan to get everybody better. Beau is the reason MOG went to Nationals last semester and has a good chance to go in the near future.

Everyone that has played with Beau will agree that he somehow makes you want to work hard, not just for him but for your teammates. He is exceptionally versatile: he can be the center handler on offense while he can also match-up against the opponent’s best guy on defense. Beau is normally a cutter, but since MOG hasn’t had too many handlers recently, he has learned how to be an efficient and effective O-line handler. Off the field, Beau has spent countless hours making sure that MOG is the best program it can possibly be. Growing the accessibility of the sport for the members of MOG is what pushes him. Whether this is somehow raising over $25k and arranging plans to get 20 college students across the country to Nationals in two weeks, or helping people with their off the field problems.

Josh Felton (Colorado College)

Josh came to Wasabi as a freshman with immense talent, skill, and experience growing up playing at Edina High School in Minnesota. From the gecko as a freshman, he was one of our most relied-on players to play lockdown defense and to produce consistent and smart offense. Through the last four years, now as a Senior, Josh has grown into by far and away one of the most important players on and off the field for Wasabi. His leadership and hustle have led our D-line through the South Central region. He’s a can-do-it-all machine; he’ll get open early in the stall count or be the last option late.

Josh has the best closing speed in D3 ultimate. He will get open on anyone and he will lock anyone down. After Conferences, we gave Josh one of our post-tournament best player awards, which was his first time winning one. This didn’t make any sense. But I think that goes to something about Josh — he is so damn consistent that you just know he will show up. He’s the definition of a glue player but he is also so capable of making the big energy plays. I challenge anyone to beat Josh anywhere on the field.

Most importantly, his kindness, good fellowship, and humility have made Josh an amazing teammate and competitor. He makes everyone on our team, and on any field, feel valued and respected. This year on Wasabi, we have really focused on remaining present in the fun and joy we all have for playing with one another, no matter what the outcomes are, and Josh is the perfect embodiment of this goal. Every practice, tournament, or other team function he is there as a friend first, with his big grin. There is no one more deserving of the Donovan Award than Mr. Josh Felton.

Ben Fjetland-Souza (St. Olaf)

Our boy Ben Fjet is cracked. If you want to know anything about him or his abilities, just watch any of the Zerks games on Youtube or Ultiworld or something. Look for #5 and watch him dissect. You can watch him at Nationals this year too, doesn’t matter what game. Should be able to deduce more than enough.

Elliott Moore (Oklahoma Christian)

Elliott Moore lives and breathes ultimate frisbee. As a captain for Oklahoma Christian, Elliott has led the team on and off the field during his tenure as an Eagle, ultimately culminating in a National Championship in Fall 2021 and again in May 2022. While being a defensive menace, Elliott has been slotted into an O-line handler role at OC due to need, and his offensive game has continued to develop through accepting that challenge.

Elliott’s passion and intensity can be witnessed in OC’s huddles, whether it is saying the right thing at the right time, or leading our team in the Oh-Chi-Le-Le chant before big games. Catch him at Nationals making big plays; maybe we’ll even let him cross over to D-line.

2015: Houston Helix YCC
2016: Riverside, Houston Helix YCC
2017: Austin Amigos YCC, Singlewide, Austin Sol (while in high school)
2018: Austin Sol, Doublewide Bronze at WUCC, U20 Gold WJUC
2019: Austin Sol, Doublewide
2020: Oklahoma Christian, Austin Sol
2021: Oklahoma Christian National Champions, Goldfish, Austin Sol, D-III Men’s All-American First Team, D-III Men’s Offensive Player Of The Year 1st Runner-Up
2022: Oklahoma Christian National Champions, Doublewide, Austin Sol

Leo Sovell-Fernandez (Middlebury)

When Leo arrived at Middlebury, he was already a seasoned frisbee veteran, fresh off a gold medal at the WJUC, 4 years on his high school team, and several YCC seasons with the St. Paul Stars. He immediately made his mark on the Pranksters not just because of his skill but with his endless enthusiasm, love for the game, and goofy personality.

As a player at Middlebury, Leo has had an outstanding career, with the team winning the D3 National Championship in 2019 and finishing as the runner-ups in 2021. He has achieved many individual accolades as well: 2019 D3 Men’s Rookie of the Year, first runner up for 2019 Club Mixed Breakout Player of the Year, and 2021 D3 Men’s Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to a second team All-American in 2019 and first-team All-American in 2021.

His impact on the team, however, goes far beyond these individual awards. Leo is the epitome of a team player, pushing his body to the limit in every game (in the 2019 final, he eventually had to stop playing because his hands were shaking due to how many points he had played in the 100° Texas heat). As a two-year captain for the Pranksters, Leo has also played a huge role in shaping the current and future direction of the team, sharing his passion for ultimate with the entire community. He always takes the time to give less experienced players advice, feedback, and praise, and over the last two years has welcomed many new players to the sport of ultimate. His goofiness helps the Pranksters maintain their trademark fun ~vibes~, while his talent, competitive drive, and leadership have been essential for the team’s on-field success.

Women’s Division

Claire Babbott-Bryan (Middlebury)

Claire “Becky, Babs, BB” Babbott-Bryan joined the Pranksters in the Fall of 2018, coming off of four years of high school ultimate in Western Massachusetts and two seasons with Valley Ultimate. Claire fell naturally into the rhythm of Middlebury Ultimate, situating herself quickly as an experienced cutter and someone that every other first year new to the sport looked to to learn from. Her free spirit and energy made her an immediate friend of every player on the team, new and old, and she has been a backbone of the Pranksters since that first year.

At the team’s showing at DIII Nationals in 2019, Claire won the Rookie of the Year award and her contributions to the team have only increased since. For about a year and a half, Claire has navigated captainship through a pandemic, a year off from school, and helped guide the team to its first-ever DIII national title last Fall. Claire moves on the field seamlessly between the handler and cutter space, and is the kind of player that every opposing team has to make a plan for — lest they allow her to dominate the game.

Beyond her numbered accomplishments with the Pranksters, Claire has contributed to Boston Siege’s Nationals campaigns since the summer of 2019, including a run in Fall 2021 where she led Siege in assists while also captaining Middlebury’s championship-winning season. Beyond her contributions to the game on the field, Claire contributes even more to every other player’s personal experience with the Pranksters. She is always poised and graceful, never boastful, and always brings the appropriate level of positive energy to the space. She connects with each and every player, her grounding breaths are invaluable in preparation for each game, and her coaching advice on a team that lacks a traditional coach has improved every one of her teammate’s play over her years with the team.

Claire loves the game more than anything, and is committed to making sure every other ultimate player she interacts with has as fulfilling of an experience as her own. Her presence on the Pranksters for the past four years is irreplaceable, and the team has been enduringly improved by her leadership. Plus, she’s insane at catching cheez balls in her mouth.

Siri Bohacek (Williams)

Siri Bohacek is the two-year captain and Donovan nominee for Nova Ultimate, Williams College Women and Trans* Ultimate Frisbee team. Siri joined Nova after captaining her high school team at Stillwater High. While juggling also being a member of the Williams D1 Varsity Nordic Ski team, she managed to be named a Rookie to Watch by Ultiworld in 2019. After sustaining an injury that prevented her from playing her freshman year at Nationals and being prevented from playing as a result of COVID, and then again because of injury, she still managed to lead a team with only two players who had ever played a full season to a third place ranking this past season.

In the summer of 2021, Siri was a vital defensive force for Albany Rebel Rebel. She is an incredibly impressive athlete. Her quick jukes and deep looks are absolutely impossible to guard, and she will come down with the disc even if it requires a 10 foot bid to get there. As a defender, she is infamous for a handler mark that can lock down the best handlers in the Northeast and her impressive layout D’s. And yet despite the strength of her athleticism, her strength as a leader still manages to be even more impressive. Siri remained a committed coach to an incredibly young and inexperienced team even in the face of heartbreaking injuries. At tournaments, she can be found running up and down the sideline talking to players after playing exhaustingly long points. Her words of encouragement and commitment to her teammates as well as the sport make her invaluable as a captain of this team. Siri’s season was cut tragically short after Nova had to forfeit our second day of games at Regionals. Even though Nova won’t see Nationals this year as a result, we can’t wait to watch Siri tear it up with whoever she chooses to play for after she leaves Williams.

Josie Ku (Wellesley)

Josie “Butter” Ku joined the Wellesley Whiptails in 2017 as a newcomer to ultimate but almost immediately picked up a dedication to not only the team but the sport. She went on to captain the “Tails” (Wellesley’s B team) the next year and continued to develop outside of campus, joining the WUGC Hong Kong Women’s team1 and the Shanghai Sirens in 2021, serving as the Shanghai’s Womxn’s League Captain.

Now, Josie has co-captained Wellesley’s “Whips” (A team) this season to their first Nationals qualification in over a decade. Anyone who has seen her play can testify to what an incredible presence she is on the field — she anchors the offense as a handler who we trust to catch even the most chaotic dump throw, and she also poaches just as well as she shuts down consecutive deep cuts (unless she decides to make one herself). Her ability to tirelessly play nearly every point, game after game, throwing her body on the line while constantly analyzing the game and still motivating us in between plays, is true leadership by example and it drives all of us to be that much better. All the way from her campaign for captainship this season, she made it clear that Nationals was her endgame, even if some of us thought it was just a moonshot. But the way Josie takes ultimate seriously has inspired all of us — we all know Josie is eating, drinking, and sleeping (by 10pm!) with ultimate in mind. And her commitment is sincere on a personal level, too, from buying electrolytes for every tournament to keep the team alive, to finding time to have a one-on-one meal with every new teammate this season. Josie’s determination, skill, and commitment make her a great player and exceptional captain. But the greatest honor for all of us is calling her our teammate and friend.

Riah Newfont (Haverford)

The Bryn Mawr and Haverford Sneetches are incredibly proud to nominate Haverford senior Riah Newfont for the 2022 Donovan Award. Riah is a talented and versatile player who brings 100% effort to every point she plays. She never gets tired and is always ready to make one more cut or play one more point. Her ability to throw perfect hucks and make speedy strike cuts has made her into a dangerous cutter-handler hybrid, ready to tackle any position her team needs her to play as well as making her intimidating to opposing teams.

As a passionate presence on and off the field, Riah brings so much joy to ultimate and the Sneetches through leading fun dances on the line before a point, hyping up her teammates by initiating cheers, and working hard to make everyone feel included and be as excited as she is to play. Riah is extremely knowledgeable about the sport and has been a great resource to new players who are learning the game, taking the time to talk them through the ins and outs of a point or making sure they understand the nuances of a throw. She embodies the spirit of the game in her willingness to talk to anyone, on any team, about various calls and rules, and maintains a simultaneously competitive and respectful attitude to all players on the field.

More than anything, Riah prioritizes having fun and playing with joy over winning, and she would rather play a close game than a blowout because she appreciates the challenge. Whether she is playing or on the sideline, Riah brings so much to each game by celebrating each player’s accomplishments, no matter how small. She is a fierce, energetic, passionate, joyful player and person, and she will be missed next year!

Jaclyn Wataoka (Portland)

Jackie was a standout player for UProar starting her freshman year at the University of Portland. Always bursting with energy and kindness, she helped build a culture of spirit and positivity on this team.

Jaclyn played ultimate recreationally in high school and fell in love with the sport in college. The dedication, time, and focus that she puts into frisbee are an inspiration for the whole team. She leads with confidence and trust so that every player can love the game as much as she does. After a strong freshman year, sophomore Jaclyn was poised to lead UPRoar on a deep nationals run in 2020 before Covid hit. She took an extra step to stay engaged in the ultimate community by taking on a role as the Northwest College Coordinator for USAU. She remained committed to this role during her busy senior year and plans to continue post-graduation.

During the pandemic, Jaclyn continued to lead from afar to keep people engaged with the team and the sport. She was playing high-level mixed club in the Bay Area and learned so much during her time there. The continued focus on ultimate is what made UPRoar so successful during the Fall 2021 Nationals. Jaclyn was the driving force behind a hardworking team. She was individually recognized as National Offensive Player of the Year, National Player of Year runner-up, and All-D3 First Team for her performance. Behind her skill and execution, our team was able to overcome adversity and find success on the national stage.

In the Spring, she played with Oregon Onyx of the WUL and thrived playing on such a high-level team. She brought what she learned there back to UPRoar while elevating her own game through the experience. She taught new and veteran players all that she learned with patience and excitement. She values the competition and spirit of the game above all, but she also likes to win and see her team succeed. Jaclyn is truly a teammate and friend that wants us to be at our best.

The 2022 Donovan Award winners will be announced Tuesday, June 28th, in a live presentation on Ultiworld’s YouTube channel.

  1. the 2020 season was unfortunately canceled due to COVID 

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