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U23 Team Canada athletes find success at year’s first tournament

Photo courtesy: Gee-Gee’s ultimate frisbee team

Six athletes from the University of Ottawa were part of the U23 national ultimate team’s first tournament of the year on the weekend of Feb. 28.

Gee-Gees Jeremy Hill, Kinley Gee, Nick Boucher, Kristina Cowan, Hannah Dawson, and Sarah Innes travelled to Las Vegas with the 80-member group for some teammate bonding and preliminary play.

Team management hadn’t set out rosters for the different teams yet, so the match in Vegas gave the players an opportunity to compete in both the male or female and co-ed divisions, explained Cowan, a cutter who has played for the Gee-Gees since 2011.
“This year’s team consisted of 40 women and 40 men who could be placed on any of the rosters,” said fellow cutter Innes. “For the first couple of months there was only one Team Canada.”

The national team held tryouts in mid-September in four cities across Canada: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal, and Toronto. Cowen, Innes, and Dawson all tried out for their first time in Toronto.

The weekend showed great potential for this year’s U23 team. The women’s squad placed first with 7-0, while the mixed team were just shy of first place with 7-1. The open team scored 5-2 and finished ninth.

For the Canadian team, it was even exciting just to be playing outside on real grass.

“Getting field time in the winter is really hard,” Cowan said of practice at the U of O. “We have one turf practice a week and one other indoor practice.”
Being part of a national team also means the players have access to a more cohesive management, and coaching team and sponsors that help pay for better gear, physiotherapy, and travel expenses. But the downside lies in the limited training time, since many of the players live in different cities across Canada.

Training is key these next few months, because the team’s focus now is on the 2015 World U23 Championships on July 12–18 held in London, England.

“We are expected to be training independently for the most part to prepare ourselves for London,” said Cowan. “Everyone has their own pod of roughly six players nearby that they can train with.”

While the team has yet to have a team tournament, Innes said everyone still puts a lot of time into training.

“U23 players have the option of investing into an ultimate-specific training program if they don’t already have one,” said Innes. “But overall everyone spends quite a bit of time in training, whether it’s weight training, agility, speed, plyos, even practising with the other teams that we’re on.”

Practising with the Gee-Gees has offered advantages for the group’s training, including more gym time as well as dome time at Lees. Cowan credited the Gee-Gees women’s ultimate program for giving her the necessary foundation to play for Team Canada.

“The women’s ultimate program at our school has consistently produced high-level ultimate players,” she said. “I think this has a lot to do with the dedication of our coaches, past and present, coupled with the eagerness of our players.”