While the sport of ultimate frisbee continues to see massive growth, the most competitive teams in Canada still tend to come out of Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.
Durham Region’s Junior Program, currently in its second year, is looking to change that.
“The future of the sport is in good hands” says Jamie Millage, one of the coaches of the boys U-19 team, Stud. “The biggest shift is the level of athleticism we’re seeing. A few years ago, even at the highest levels, strong athletes could rely on their speed and strength to set them apart very quickly – now, everyone on the field is a great athlete”.
This year’s provincial championships took place in Port Hope, on the Trinity College School Campus. Durham’s teams, Stud and Nightfury, were the only two teams not from Toronto or Ottawa.
On the women’s side, it was Nightfury’s first formal tournament of the season, as many of their athletes had spent the spring competing in provincial and national competitions with their high schools. The team managed to put up some great points against tough competition, and landed in third at the end of the weekend.
On the men’s side, Stud went through Saturday feeling a bit like a fish out of water – They lost by significant margins to both Toronto and Ottawa’s A teams, while easily handling the younger squads from the bigger cities. The excitement came on Sunday in the “Game to Go,” as Stud took on Ottawa’s Ignite for the final bid to nationals. After the previous day’s 15-4 loss, the Durham team came out aggressively and took the lead in what would be a highly spirited and dramatic game.
As the clocked ticked down, Stud put up one last long throw into the endzone, which was caught, and sent the game into sudden death overtime, known in ultimate as “Universe Point.”
With parents and fans crowding the sidelines, Ottawa would go on to score their next point, but Stud held their heads high in the knowledge that they almost became the first non-Ottawa/Toronto team to qualify out of Ontario in over a decade.
The sport of ultimate has significantly raised its profile over the past few years, with expanded coverage of its premier events, frequent appearances on the Sport Centre Top 10, ESPN coverage deals, and two competing professional leagues.
This past week, the World U-23 Championships took place in London, England, and Canada brought home a silver in the men’s division, and bronze in the women’s and mixed divisions.
With its low cost and high levels of sportsmanship, ultimate continues to draw in large numbers of new participants. Anyone interested in finding out more about ultimate in Durham should visit the Durham Ultimate Club Website at www.Durhamultimateclub.com.