The Women’s Collegiate All Americans finished 2nd in the ATAVUS Women’s Elite 7s in Infinity Park last weekend, losing in the final to an Eagle-lade Scion team, but the experience was a useful one nonetheless.
Captaining the team was the only non-collegiate on the All American squad. With Coach Brandon Sparks using the All American program as an age-grade team, he chose Seattle Saracens star and former Budd Bay Steelheads (Olympia, Wash.) high school standout Kelsi Stockert to be the captain. For Stockert, who made her USA 15s debut last year and scored a try against New Zealand in the process, the experience was a new one.
“I had never been the captain of any team,” Stockert told Goff Rugby Report. “Being in the position of being a leader was new to me. I had to learn how to word things differently, but I also had some really great veteran players with me.”
Those included Penn State star Tess Feury, and Davenport all-everything Ashlee Byrge. Those two may be the best backs in college rugby – their combination of athleticism, strength, and intelligence is hard to match. Stocker brought her own skills to the table – in 15s she’s a back with a nice turn of pace and an aggressive running style that breaks tackles. She also hits hard on defense.
“They have such great field vision and such a great work rate – they are great examples of what college rugby players can be,” enthused Stockert. Meanwhile, players such as Alena Olsen (Michigan), Maria Michelotti (Montana State), and Bulou Mataitoga (AIC) impressed their captain.
“Maria has only been playing rugby for a year, and she is so good already but has so much potential.”
Stockert said she learned plenty from the younger players, as well, including how to navigate the strange world of Snapchat. Her own story, though, is one worth noting, too.
After aging out of the Budd Bay program, where she led the team in tries as a freshman, Stockert had a baby at 19. It was a blessed event – her daughter is, by all accounts, as cute as a button and a smart, delightful, happy child – but it was also an interruption in her plans. At the time, Stockert said she wanted to get back to playing rugby and make the Loggers regional all-star team. She dedicated herself to getting back into playing shape so much she ended up an Eagle, and an MVP.
In doing so, she moved from the Olympia area to Seattle, where she began playing for the Seattle Saracens and working out with ATAVUS.
“ATAVUS has helped me SO much,” Stockert enthused. “I go to the ATAVUS Academy in the mornings, and since I’ve started going there I’ve seen huge results. Physically, I’m stronger and faster. I can go to James (and before Chris Tombs) for any questions I have. And doing the skills in the morning with Emilie Bydwell and Shawn Pittman has changed my game. I’m feeling so much more confident in my passing, and my footwork is getting better and better. Before going to the academy, I didn’t really know what it was like to be a high performance athlete.”
But she also had the drive, including the drive to show her daughter that you can achieve what you work for.
“I think it’s important to realize that you can be a good mom and also achieve things outside of being a mom,” said Stockert. “If you want to call it a setback, getting pregnant at 19, well maybe you can call it that, but then you can’t let that ‘setback’ stop you. I still wanted to see how high I can go as a player and I still have those goals. Young moms can fight for their goals and still raise their kids. I want to be great at being Mom, and still keep Kelsi.”