KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Bearden senior Lydia Pulsinelli started playing ultimate frisbee her freshman year to get more exercise.

“I wasn’t sure about it at first,” said Pulsinelli. “I definitely almost quit a few times my first like year in a half.”

Instead of taking a break, Pulsinelli powered through and found a new love.

“I sort of had to change my mindset because I’m very like academics and like ‘Oh, I wanna be the best, and I’m not very naturally athletic, so I just had to accept it was going to be a learning experience, and I should just have fun with it,’” said Pulsinelli.

Lydia Pulsinelli uses her brains on the ultimate field, but she also learned how to release stress off the turf from playing the sport she loves.

“Not worrying so much about mistakes and learning to have more fun with it. Making sure I don’t have to take every AP class and do perfect on it, my last couple of years I’ve taken more electives.”

The reset put her in a position to reel in a national merit finalist scholarship.

“The recognition that my hard work has paid off. I haven’t been just working hard through high school for nothing, and I can continue all through college.”

Pulsinelli spent four years exercising her body and her brains culminating in a life-changing award.

Pulsinelli plans to use her National Merit Scholarship while attending the University of Wisconsin. She added that she wants to continue playing ultimate for the school’s club team.