Lake City Secondary girls gear up for new rugby season

High school students return to the pitch as another rugby season is underway in Williams Lake.

Lake City Secondary School holds their rugby practices before school on Mondays and Wednesdays, bright and early at 7 a.m. on the Williams Lake Campus field. The squad recently competed in an invitational sevens tournament to help kick-start the new season.

Lake City only had a handful of practices to prepare for the tournament, and were facing teams that had been practicing together for months, but the team still managed a respectable showing. They won two matches and lost two, placing fifth out of eight teams, and they feel like it was a good starting point for the rest of their season.

“I felt we played really well considering we only had three practices under our belt and the teams we were playing at the coast [tournament] practice all year round,” said Lake City student and rugby player Kalli Campbell.

Her teammate and classmate Gabrielle Knox shared similar sentiments about the tournament, saying it was “super fun” and also felt the team played well.

“We were off to a rough start, we only had three practices going in, but we ended up pulling it together and competed really well against the experienced coast teams,” she said.

Joelle Thurow is also in grade 12, and, like her teammates, was positive about the tournament, saying that it “went very well” considering they were up against coast teams and had minimal practice time together this year up to that point.

Campbell says the high school rugby team has been playing together since they were in Grade 8, growing together as a team over the years, which has led to back-to-back top-three finishes at the provincials — winning bronze in sevens in 2022 and bronze in 15s the following year.

“We have developed a chemistry,” she said. “This year, we are hoping to place with a medal once again at sevens provincials at the end of May.”

READ MORE: Williams Lake high school rugby girls bring home bronze from provincials

Campbell also does CrossFit training at Total Ice Training Centre along with Knox, who got into rugby because of CrossFit. Knox used to swim competitively and always worked out at Total Ice. After quitting swimming, she continued to work out, eventually getting into CrossFit and being introduced to rugby, thanks in part to Natasha Johnson, who is the gym manager and Lake City rugby team coach.

Johnson said the balanced outcome of the tournament, two wins and two losses, is beneficial for the team’s development as they look towards the rest of the season.

She currently divides her time between the gym, hockey and rugby teams, and her experience with CrossFit-style training has helped her when she’s coaching on the ice or the pitch, and she is hoping to inspire the next generation of athletes.

“I firmly believe in giving back the time and inspiration that I have received,” she said. “I absolutely love being able to work with and inspire the girls, both in the gym and on the field.”

Johnson also noted that many of her rugby athletes have also worked alongside her at the gym, and said being able to make a positive impact on their lives is “truly the best life.”

Since Knox first got into rugby in the fall of 2021, she has gone on to play club rugby, competing in Australia with the BC Bears sevens team, and is thankful for having Johnson as a coach for both rugby and CrossFit.

Thurow has played for regional rugby teams in the past, and says the rugby community in Williams Lake is “amazing.”

“Everyone here wants you to succeed,” she said. “The great thing about our school team is that everyone is of a different level of skill and competitiveness. Lots of girls have other commitments but still come out and practice with us just because they love the sport so much — that’s how great of a community it is.”

During the early morning, one-hour practices, the team works on tackling drills, a lot of passing drills and running certain plays, according to Campbell.

“I love my team and I am so proud of our determination and drive towards such a great sport,” she said.

Williams Lake will be hosting the zones for sevens later this school year.

Alexander Vaz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune