On the same day that she graduated from Swarthmore, Tessa Jones ‘17 was honored by the sport that helped enhance her college experience.
Jones, a four-year member of the Warmothers, Swarthmore Women's Ultimate Frisbee team, is the recipient of the inaugural Donovan Award. Given by Ultiworld, a news media site dedicated to the sport, it is awarded to a male and female Ultimate Frisbee player at the Division III level who consistently demonstrates skill and athleticism, commitment to equity and fairness, and upholds the spirit of the game by respecting others and displaying leadership within the Ultimate Frisbee community.
“My first reaction was just shock,” says Jones, a computer science major from Newtonville, Mass., upon learning she had won the award. She was in the process of saying her goodbyes after the graduation ceremony on May 21 when a teammate informed her that she had won. “Since I knew the other candidates for the award were such phenomenal players and leaders," she says, "I was really surprised to learn that I was the recipient.” Jones also notes that it is a particular honor to receive an award named after Kelly Donovan, an active member of ultimate community who passed away in 2016.
Jones has been a member of the Warmothers since her freshman year at Swarthmore. After training for 13 years in an intense classical ballet program, Jones decided to try something new during her freshman orientation. She attended an ultimate tournament her second weekend at the College instead of going to a dance audition and, as she says, that was the moment her “fate was decided.”
As a player, Jones is known for her smart handling, her tendency to practice for long hours, and her willingness to mentor new players. Jones served as a senior captain for the 2017 season, and when two of the other captains were forced to step down due to injuries and other commitments, she quickly accepted responsibility for mentoring the eight rookies on the team.
Jones hopes that her award “will inspire players at other small schools to keep developing their programs and investing in young players even if they don’t come in with ultimate experience.”
This summer, Jones is continuing her ultimate legacy by traveling through Europe and playing with various teams. “I’ve continued to be inspired by the positivity and warmth that exists wherever there is ultimate,” she says.