Even if one does not know much about the Field Hockey National Futures Championship, one might want to know this: This year, two local players from Region 1, which includes Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, were chosen to participate in the event.

Both of the the young athletes are from Maine. In fact, they represent Waldo County and, more specifically, from Belfast.

Julia Ward, 15, and Madison Cummings, 13, were selected to participate in the championships June 22-27 in Virginia Beach, Va. The two girls were in a group of about 646 players from 36 teams at the championships.

The Futures program is organized by USA Field Hockey to strengthen field hockey in the United States. The program also helps develop the best athletes so the “future” Olympians can be identified.

The players were selected from the larger group of 4,500 athletes out of the program and divided into teams in under-14, under-16, and under-19 age divisions. Ward played in the U16 division and Cummings in U14.

“It was a lot of fun,” Ward said. “I met a lot of new girls who were on my team. I didn’t know any of the girls on my team when I showed up and we got to play against a lot of really good girls. It was a great experience to go down there and play.”

Cummings also enjoyed meeting people from all over the country. “It was pretty cool coming together and playing with people from different places,” she said.

Cummings said it was especially fun because she used to watch her older sister, Brittany, play when she was her age. “She would play there when she made the team so I was pretty excited when I made it too,” Cummings said. “It was just fun and a cool learning experience.”

One of the reasons Cummings said she likes the sport is because all of her sisters, including Makayla and Breann, play it as well.

Looking ahead, Ward also was chosen to be a part of the more prestigious Junior Olympics program which will be back in Virginia Beach Monday through Saturday, Aug. 2-7. The event is geared towards the U16 players and only eight teams of 15 players are chosen out of the same group of 4,500 Futures players. In the competition, Ward is also one of only 16 goalies that will play.

“I’m really excited,” Ward said. “I was so happy when I found out, I am so psyched to go.”

Looking at the two young local field hockey players’ resumes one can see why they were chosen as some of the nation’s best. Both have been participants in the futures programs before and they each have more than eight years of experience.

Apart from that, the two have attended numerous camps, showcases and championships at many levels. They also play on the Majestix Club Team in Waterville.

Cummings, a tremendous stick handler and goal scorer, has been playing the field hockey since she could hold a stick and joined a YMCA program, at age five, directed by longtime Belfast Area High School coach Allen Holmes. The soon-to-be BAHS freshman was also on Busline League championship teams in 2007, 2008 and 2009 at Troy Howard Middle School.

Ward, a goalie, had a similar background and played with coach Holmes at the YMCA as well and was on the 2007 and 2008 Lions’ Busline League title teams. She has been playing field hockey year-round since the seventh grade. She also plays field hockey at BAHS and coach Holmes.

To prepare for the Junior Olympics, Ward now plays around three times a week, once with her school team, once with her club team, then, whenever she can. She also tries to work out every day.

Mentally, Ward just wants to stay positive about herself and the sport she has a passion for. “I’m just really thinking about what I know and I’m just going to go out there and do my best,” she said.

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.