Dr. Alexander Hartwiger talks ultimate frisbee, gold medals and life lessons

[Photo courtesy of Alexander Hartwiger]

Alexander Hartwiger’s office is filled with a vast collection of books.

The only indication he is a gold medal winner in ultimate frisbee is a picture of him holding an American flag and a medal. 

Hartwiger said he clicked with ultimate frisbee is right away after playing varsity soccer for three years at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. He ended up graduating from Appalachian State and stayed to get his master’s. He then received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina.

When he’s not playing ultimate, he is teaching a multitude of English courses here at Framingham State, from Literary Study to Studies in World Literature after 1900: Contemporary African Literature.

After soccer became too much for him to balance with school, he found ultimate frisbee and loved it for the athleticism and how the sport is constructed on self officiating, he said.

One of the few things Hartwiger highlighted about his love of ultimate is the team-based competition and the camaraderie

When asked about his greatest accomplishment in ultimate, it was not only his gold medal achievement, but being able to wear USA across his chest and representing his country.

In the summer of 2016, he was part of Team USA that won a gold medal the national master’s division. It is his greatest sports achievement, he said.

He had always dreamed, as a kid, of the moment he would be wearing USA but envisioned it would be for the World Cup. Just having the honor of being able to represent his country, however, filled him with pride, he said.

Hartwiger employs the same principles of integrity and mutual respect in his teaching and in ultimate.

Crismely Baez, who is a student in Hartwiger’s Studies in World Literature after 1900: Contemporary African Literature, said he enforces the idea of what matters and why are you there. 

“He wants to teach his students that everybody has a different way and we must respect their ways,” she said.

While explaining her favorite characteristics of Hartwiger’s teaching style, she told a story on how he taught her to truly appreciate her name. Baez said, “He made me appreciate a piece of me that I never truly appreciated. I didn’t know the importance of a name until after he presented the pieces for me that allowed me to put them together to really value my name.”

Hartwiger’s use of letting students be themselves in his classroom environment is a direct reflection of how he feels responsible for his teammates because they’re all equals striving for the same goal.

When asked about his worst game, he can remember it vividly as if it were yesterday, he said.  

“It was the 2003 National Championship Open division game tied 14-14 with double game point and my team was receiving the pole which is the same as to receive the kickoff in football,” he said.

While receiving the pole, Hartwiger made a costly mistake that led to his team turning possession over and the other team scoring the winning point and effectively ending his team’s championship hopes. In a way that only Hartwiger could, he found the positive in the loss explaining that it taught him so much from that game that even if you don’t win a gold medal your season isn’t a disappointment.

In the semifinals of the World Championships this past summer, Hartwiger learned from his earlier mistakes and made an impact on the game that helped start a run for the championship.

In the game, he had three blocks which is the same as forcing three turnovers. This is rare because turnovers don’t occur often in ultimate, he said.

He also contributed three goals in the winning effort, using his past knowledge and the standard he held himself to as motivation.

He began playing in 1994 and ended up winning 10 national titles with the same team. He has won two World Championship gold medals, one in the World Ultimate Club Championships.  These championship games are a collection of the world’s best club teams in the Master’s Division with his team, Boneyard, based in North Carolina.

Hartwiger said he also won a mixed nationals title and a master’s national title in the United States, which is where the highest level of competition takes place.

Ultimate is beginning to gain traction and spread on a global level with games now streamed. Hartwiger said he would love to see ultimate added to the Olympics as a beach sport.

He would also love to see a club team here at Framingham State and would like being involved in some capacity.

Some of his greatest advice to pass along for ultimate is “Don’t jump before you must jump.”

This coming summer keep your eye out for Hartwiger as he represents the USA in the Masters Division at the Beach World Championships in June in France.

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