A Ponoka football player was part of making history this month after taking home the gold with Team Alberta at the first-ever national championship for women’s provincial teams at the U18 level.
Emily McMillan, 17, of Ponoka, in her first year with Team Alberta, competed at nationals, which was held in Regina from July 1 to 9.
“I am extremely proud of the girls on my team,” said McMillan in an email interview. “The win was truly deserved; lots of talent and heart on the team.”
McMillan has been a part of the football community in Ponoka since she was in Grade 6 when she attended her first spring camp. She played with the Bantam Broncs for three years and after missing her junior year with the senior Broncs, is starting her second and final season with them in the fall.
For Team Alberta, McMillan played the position of running back, and with the Ponoka Broncs, she’s a receiver and defensive back.
She has also played for three years with the Wetaskiwin Warriors in a girls league against Edmonton teams. The Warriors won their championship game June 4 as well.
McMillan went to tryouts and camps for Team Alberta in February and didn’t hear until June that she had made the cut for the provincial team. Four other girls from Wetaskiwin also made the team.
“Personally the win (at nationals) was a reward for all the time and effort that has gone into football, and made each difficulty within the sport worth it.”
During the mini-game round robin, Alberta went 3-1, dropping its last contest 14-12 to host Saskatchewan. This was enough to earn them a rematch in the gold medal game against Saskatchewan on July 9.
Scoring early and often, the game was a decisive 36-12 victory for Alberta.
McMillan, along with Sidani Bowers from Okotoks, Liberty Jo-Ware and Mackenzie Morrell both from Wetaskiwin, were the touchdown scorers for the game.
“This marks a definitive step forward in the sport and a nice validation for all of the hard work put into the development of the women’s tackle game,” stated a press release from Football Alberta.
The Capital District Minor Football Association has been running a tackle league for women of that age since 2019.
Football Alberta says the win also “continues Alberta’s tradition of trailblazing” as 27 years ago, the boys Team Alberta U18 won the first Football Canada Cup in 1995 with a 10-6 win over Quebec, also beating the home team as the game was played in Montreal.
“The Team Alberta U18 Women’s teams victory is a proud moment for the game and the progress made to bring the game to everyone,” stated the release.
Not only a senior player, this spring McMillan volunteered as a coach for her former bantam team as well.
Heading into her Grade 12 year in the fall and looking ahead to her future, McMillan plans to purse a post secondary education and aspires to play for the women’s Team Canada at the world championship.