Barrie native Brianna Prentice will be heading across the pond this summer to compete as part of Canadian National Ultimate Team.
Prentice, 21, started playing Ultimate — also known as ultimate frisbee — when she was in elementary school and would use the sport as dry-land training during her time as a ski racer.
Since then, the Innisdale Secondary School grad has continued to hone her skills, having played on several teams at every level including in elementary and high school, where her teams were conference and national title winners, respectively. She has also played as a member of various beer league and club teams and currently serves as captain of the University Guelph team, where she's studying philosophy and math.
Prentice said she loves the camaraderie and team aspect that comes along with ultimate.
“I came from an individual sport — ski racing — and I didn’t really enjoy that because there wasn’t really much of a social aspect to it. With ultimate frisbee, a big part of it is the team," she said. "It’s one of the only sports where you need two people to score a point. You have to really have a lot of chemistry, which is cool.”
Ultimate frisbee, she said, is quite different from the relaxed activity one might enjoy at a family picnic — and involves a lot of stamina.
“It’s probably the most running you will ever do. You have someone always playing defense on you, so to get the frisbee you have to always be running to get to it,” she explained, adding a typical game includes seven players from each team on the field. “I think people think of (ultimate) as a leisurely sport, but coming from a high-level sport and going to ultimate frisbee, it was way more athletic than (I) ever imagined it being.”
Similar to other team sports, athletes learn plays that they will run in the game, she explained. “It’s a lot more organized!”
Prentice said news she’d recently earned a spot on the Canadian National Ultimate Team — which will head to England in the summer where they will compete against the world's best national teams — brought her to tears.
“Honestly, I started crying. I was really, really happy,” she said. “I was overcome with emotions because I had tried out in 2019 for the under-20 Team Canada and I just didn’t make it. That was really hard, but between then and now I have worked really hard.
"This has been a huge accomplishment, because this is the last time I could make a junior national team," Prentice added. "I felt really proud of myself and thankful for the chance to get to represent Canada this coming summer.”
Prentice is looking forward to not only the opportunity to compete with high-level players, but also to learn from some of the best coaches.
“(I will) be able to improve so much just by being around these people who are all very talented," she said.
It’s been a long road for Prentice to get to where she is in the sport, adding she suffered a severe back injury in 2018, which she admitted nearly caused her to walk away from the sport of ultimate for good.
“I wasn’t able to play at nationals that year, and it lasted for about a year off and on where I was going weeks where I wasn’t even able to walk. It was pretty bad, but through a lot of rehab and core strength I was able to get back to playing,” she said.
“I think there were times where I was ready to be done, especially after I didn’t make Team Canada the last time … but it’s one of things that as soon as (I) walk away from I was just itching to play again. It’s just something I am very passionate about and it brings me so much joy being on the field.”