Passion for fitness leads UNMC leader to world championships

Image with caption: Ernest Prentice, Ph.D., and the Dragonheart Vermont Quicksilver dragonboating team.
Ernest Prentice, Ph.D., and the Dragonheart Vermont Quicksilver dragonboating team.
As a triathlete with 20 years' experience, Ernie Prentice, Ph.D., is familiar with water.

So when his friend invited him out onto Vermont's Lake Champlain to try a different sport -- something called "dragon boating" -- Prentice, burned out on triathlons, took him up on it.

"It was about an hour and a half, intense practice," said Dr. Prentice, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs at UNMC. "I just got hooked."

picture disc.
Ernest Prentice, Ph.D.
Dragon boating is Chinese in origin. It requires a team of 20 paddlers, working in synchrony, with a drummer to set the stroke and a steer person to control the boat. During competition, the boats are adorned with decorative dragon heads and tails.

After winning the national championship, Dr. Prentice and his new team -- based in Vermont, where he has a second home -- will travel to Italy in September 2014 to compete in the world championship of dragon boat racing in their age division.

Most of the Quicksilver mixed team is older than 60, and -- like Dr. Prentice-- three are over 70. One member is 74.

"I joined the team with the understanding that I can't practice the way the rest of the folks can, but I'll do what I can here in Omaha to simulate it," he said.

When he left triathlons, Dr. Prentice knew he needed to keep active. Dragon boating just clicked for him.

"When we get older, we tend to become more inactive," he said -- obviously not speaking of himself. "You don't have to adopt a sedentary life. Age is not a barrier to activity."

Dr. Prentice said his club, Dragonheart Vermont, began as a team of breast cancer survivors. Today, there is one team within the club that still competes as a breast cancer survivor team. The survivor team will be one of four Dragonheart Vermont teams competing in Italy.

"I am just in awe of them, and we have superb husband-and-wife coaches," Dr. Prentice said.

The support group aspect of the activity is another reason he's so committed.

"The entire group gets involved in supporting these survivors, and if they get sick, the group helps take care of them."

"This cohesiveness has made them the best in the country. The survivor team won the 2012 international competition in Hong Kong.

"And they might end up being the best in the world -- again. We'll have to see."


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Donna Butkus
October 21, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Wonderful article about Professor Ernie!!! I happen to be one of the folks who was in same boat with Ernie when he initially joined our club this past summer!! He's got Heart, Enthusiasm, and a Wonderful Attitude! Excited about Italy too, as my team of Women Warriors, also all over 60, will also be participating in races! Thanks for sharing more about Professor Ernie! Paddles Up!!! Donna Butkus :-)