David Cranston’s seminal Ultimate Frisbee training came in two phases. First, he became an athlete, playing football, soccer and wrestling (135 weight class) in high school. Phase two was learning how to throw a frisbee. At Xavier University, Cranston found ultimate and spent four years “just running to the end zone and catching things.” Predictably, “we were terrible.” A career highlight was placing 8th at Regionals his junior year before he “just kinda gave up” his senior year. So how did he get good? “I just threw. A lot. I wish I had thrown more, and developed my throwing skills” earlier. That’s also his enduring advice to college players: “Just throw, always throw. You’ve got nothing better to do.” With equal parts respect and jealousy he remarks, “If I could throw like Alan [Kolick], God, I’d be unstoppable.”
Cranston moved to DC after graduating in 2010 and joined Med Men as a pick up that summer. After a year on Med Men, Cranston joined Truck Stop, but his inaugural season was hindered by a partial PCL tear. Cranston has played with Truck since 2011, and was elected captain in 2014. Early in his club career, Cranston locked sights on Jeff Wodatch as a standard bearer of excellent ultimate. “I was just like ‘I want to do that, I wanna be like him.’ Since his first steps on the field with Truck, Cranston has looked to his teammate and co-captain as a mentor.
This off-season Cranston is focused on improving his speed (“shuttles with lots of rest to hit top speed consistently,” as prescribed by teammate Matthew “Rowan” McDonnell) and agility, as he develops his handler defense. Cranston is known for being a physical defender, extremely competitive and a little on the impatient side, most of all with himself. “I hate getting scored on.”
“Since I started playing Truck, I remember every time someone scored a goal on me. In practice too. And every assumption I made: ‘oh his hips are squared,’ or ‘he won’t go deep.’” Cranston recalls the time teammate Nicky Spiva beat him up line for a goal twice in a practice. “‘You’re never beating me up line again,’ I told him.”
“‘He was like, ‘yeah we’ll see about that.’” But it sounds like they’ve softened the edge to this competition. Cranston allows that “Nicky’s super fun to guard.”
For all his physical confidence, Cranston gets nervous before he plays. He doesn’t eat. He doesn’t eat during the game either, “unless I know we’re gonna win.” Luckily, Cranston’s teammates are breaking him of that habit. “Now Rowan doesn’t let me not eat” during games. But, “as soon as the disc goes up the nervousness fades away,” and Cranston’s brain turns off so his game can turn on.
Clearly, ultimate serves as both a competitive and social outlet for Cranston. “The ultimate community in DC is really great– full of respectful, outgoing, kind, people. You instantly have 10 best friends.” Between his club and professional obligations, plus an invitation to try out for the 2016 Worlds team, he certainly keeps a full schedule. “I’ll get really sad when I stop playing frisbee” and he’s not sure how he’ll “fill that void.”
“World’s 2016 tryouts are so important to me. I know four years from now I won’t have the ability” physically to compete. Cranston is aware that he’s taking the long view with that statement. He’s nowhere near past his prime and he looks forward to a “super competitive season” with the Breeze. Hopefully he can polish his defensive chops enough this winter so he doesn’t have to suffer the humiliation of Nicky beating him up line ever again.
— Libby Chamberlin, Breeze Staff Writer