Bound for England

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Nicole Heavirland in Whitefish, Montana. (Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake)

When Nicole Heavirland’s father informed her she was going to be playing rugby several years ago, her response was quick.

“Why?”

She remembers his reply being just as fast.

“He said: ‘Because you will be good at it.’”

Turns out her father, Lance, was right on.

Heavirland has been selected to the USA AIG Women’s Junior All-Americans traveling squad that will compete in the U20 Nations Cup in Nottingham, England.

The roster, dominated by collegians, consists of 26 players who are between the ages of 17-20. Heavirland is one of five high school players picked. The former Glacier High School student/athlete, is currently attending Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H.

“I was hanging out in my dorm, looked at my phone and one of the captains on the team texted me congrats,” Heavirland said of how she learned she made the squad.

“I was a little worried (I wouldn’t make it).”

Heavirland tried out for the USA team in May, a week before finals week at Exeter. She missed two days of school flying to Chula Vista, Calif., for the rugby workouts.

“It’s way too early to tell,” she said of who the 15 starters will be.

“We will have five practices in England before our first match. That will pretty much determine (it).”

Heavirland, who plays the inside-center position, has been working out on her own since returning to the Flathead Valley on June 7.

“We have a workout packet for six weeks of training that we’re doing every day,” she said.

“Sprinting, weight lifting ... the workouts are amazingly tough — seven days a week.”

She’s been so busy getting ready for the Nations Cup that she has only been able to do three things, “working out, eating and sleeping.

“ I train 1 1/2 hours lifting weights at The Wave. And then the conditioning. After that I’ll shoot hoops for an hour.

“I want get out on Whitefish Lake,” she said.

“I haven’t done that yet. I want to do some fly fishing.”

Heavirland is the leader of the fly fishing club at Exeter.

The Chula Vista trip was Heavirland’s second exposure to high-level rugby. Last summer she attended a developmental camp in New England.

“It taught me how to play rugby the way the USA program wants it done,” she said of last summer’s camp.

“It taught me certain things like offense and defense. And fitness, which is a huge part of rugby.”

The USA team is scheduled to face Canada on July 11 at 10 a.m. MDT, South Africa on July 14 at 7 a.m. and England on July 17 at noon.

The third-place match will be played July 21 at 7 a.m. followed by the championship match at 10 a.m.

“I think it will be awesome to play internationally for the first time ever,” she said.

“I just can’t wait to see what other competition is out there.”

It could also lead to something far more promising three years down the road.

“It would be awesome to play in the Olympics some day,” Heavirland said.

“An assistant coach for the Olympic team said he noticed me. That would be huge (if it happens). It’s a long shot.”

Heavirland, like each USA rugby team member, had to raise $2,400 for the trip to England. With help from a $1,000 donation by Exeter Academy, she quickly met that goal.

“I sent them (Exeter) an e-mail,” she said of her fundraising venture.

“I was surprised, running around the house when I found out (Exeter would help finance my trip). And very thankful.”

Heavirland left Glacier High School after her junior season in 2011-2012. She was a key player for the Wolfpack soccer, basketball and track programs.

She repeated her junior year at Exeter and will be a senior this fall.

“I didn’t want to go at first,” she said.

“Leave my senior year at Glacier. But once I got there, I loved every thing about it.

“The people there are amazingly smart,” she said.

“They are all driven, have something they can brag about.”

Heavirland hopes to major in pre-medicine in college.

“Academics comes first,” she said of Exeter’s biggest selling point.

“And, I would get seen by a lot more coaches for basketball.”

Her big dream is the play Division I women’s basketball. She was the MVP for Exeter’s basketball team this past season and averaged 18 points per game.

Heavirland, a 5-foot-7 point guard, has been playing AAU ball with the New England Crusaders this spring and will re-join the team after the England trip.

“My shot will be a little off,” she said of her break from basketball.

“But I will be good enough on the defensive side.

“July is the biggest recuriting month for basketball,” she said of AAU play.

So far, West Point, Brown, Yale, University of Vermont and Holy Cross are all interested in her court skills.

“Close,” she said of which sports she likes the best.

“Basketball is No. 1 with rugby right behind it a little bit. I’ve been playing basketball for a much longer time.”

Heavirland plans to return to Whitefish in August for a final visit before heading back to Exeter.

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