Pine-Richland’s Reid Duncan ready to make jump to high-level ultimate with Pittsburgh Thunderbirds

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Sunday, April 17, 2022 | 10:01 AM


About a month ago Reid Duncan found out that he had made the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds roster, which was a dream come true for the ultimate disc player, but he had to keep it a secret.

“When I made it, I was so excited, but I couldn’t tell anybody and it was pretty hard to hold that back,” Duncan said. “They wanted to make the roster announcement on social media, which they did a few days ago, but I was technically rostered for a month prior to the announcement. I was able to tell a few people, but I pretty much had to keep it quiet.”

Keeping that exciting news close to the vest was an accomplishment in its own right, but what’s more impressive is that Duncan is still in high school.

He’s a senior at Pine-Richland and is one of the youngest players to ever make the Thunderbirds and play in the American Ultimate Disc League.

The AUDL is the nation’s top professional ultimate disc league.

Almost all of the players on the team are adults, who have full time jobs and play with the team on weekends, but Duncan will be right there alongside them.

Duncan first thought about trying out after playing with a couple of current Thunderbirds players on a club team last summer. They encouraged him to give it a shot, which gave him confidence.

“Going into the tryout I was looking at it as a fun weekend thing to do,” Duncan said. “I am always down for anything ultimate related, so I thought regardless of whether I made it or not it would be good practice.”

Duncan said the first tryout went really well, but wasn’t as confident after the second tryout and wasn’t sure if he had done enough to earn a spot. There were approximately 70 players who tried out, and he was one of 25 that made the cut to join the 14 returning players.

Now that he’s officially made it, he’s adjusting to a much faster pace than he’s ever seen.

“It’s definitely more intense and I’m learning a lot from this new style of play, which help further my career,” Duncan said. “I’m getting a ton of reps against a whole new set of players that are much more experienced and better than me. That’s a new experience and I’ve enjoyed it.”

The Thunderbirds open the season with back-to-back road games at Detroit on April 30 and at Chicago on May 1. The home opener is against Indianapolis on May 21. Home games will be played at J.C. Stone Field in North Park, except one at Highmark Stadium on June 3 in conjunction with a partnership with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds soccer team.

Duncan’s journey with the sport started as the team mascot, affectionately known as “Ramburger,” for the Pine-Richland varsity team until he was old enough to play.

He’ll still play for Pine-Richland this year along with the Thunderbirds.

“I’ll be playing or practicing ultimate pretty much every day, which is great,” Duncan said.

He’s hoping to help the Rams win a district and state championship in his final season, while learning from playing with and against the best in the AUDL. He plans to attend Pitt in the fall and play for the Panthers’ ultimate team, which has won two national championships.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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