Ponoka athlete takes gold at rugby national championships

A Ponoka athlete has taken her skill in sports to become part of a winning rugby team at St. Francis Xavier University

Mia Huysmans holds up her gold medal after the St. Francis Xavier University women’s rugby team won the Canadian University Championships.

A Ponoka athlete has taken her skill in sports to become part of a winning rugby team at St. Francis Xavier University (St. FX) in Antigonish, N.S.

The number 1 ranked X-Women rugby team competed in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championships Nov. 4 with Mia Huysmans playing her part in the win in the flanker position. Her role is to support the forwards and to retain or gain possession of the ball during the different phases of play.

“I like being involved in the play all the time…it’s exciting,” said Huysmans.

This was the second year they played against the University of Guelph, Ont. Gryphons in the finals and revenge was the main motivator, explained Huysmans, as the team lost 28-0 last year. “We were pretty shaken up with our loss.”

With a perfect season under their belts, the X-Women had every intention of winning against the Gryphons, which helped bring them together. She feels their opponents had as much a chance at winning as they did. “Both our teams had almost exactly the same lineup as last year,” she said. “It was pretty awesome the atmosphere of our team.”

The X-Women had a resounding 37-0 victory against their opponents.

The 18-year-old was a student at St. Augustine Catholic School and competed in volleyball, cross-country, track and field, and played point guard in basketball until Grade 11 where she studied at the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask. Basketball was the main reason she went there but was introduced to rugby and found it was something she enjoyed. She also feels there was more opportunity to move forward with rugby compared to basketball where she would most likely have been at a smaller school.

The championships made her feel as if she was part of a larger family as more than 5,000 people came to watch them compete, including 13 St. FX teams.

Huysmans’ area of study is a bachelor of arts with emphasis in psychology but sports has been a part of her life. “I’ve always been active in pretty much every sport.”

She has enjoyed the experience at St. FX and knows of several teammates who have recently been approached by Olympic team organizers. There is also an opportunity for the under-20 players to attend fitness testing. It might open up some opportunities to be invited later on to British Columbia where the Olympic training is being conducted.

Huysmans also looks forward to what is happening with rugby sevens. “Canada sevens rugby is pretty big.”

Another reason she enjoys rugby is the camaraderie along the way; she feels team sports help develop strong friendships. “It’s been a good experience.”

The team was ahead 5-0 at the end of the first half and scored another 32 points in the second.

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