RUGBY: Heavirland headed to Rio

Whitefish resident named a travel reserve for U.S. team

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

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Whitefish’s Nicole Heavirland was named as one of two travel reserves for the U.S. national rugby sevens team that will represent the country in the Summer Olympic Games next month in a press release by USA Rugby on Tuesday.

Heavirland, who attended Glacier High School, missed the cut for the final 12 active roster spots on the Eagles national team when the team was announced on Monday, but will travel with the team to be used in case of injury. A scrum half, she has three caps for the national sevens team, scoring a try at a Womens Sevens Series event in Canada earlier this year.

While there was a letdown in not being named to the active team, Heavirland said she was confident in her abilities and not nervous about getting the call to be a reserve.

“I just kept training and grinding through the practices,” Heavirland said.

“It was ultimately meant to be. I’m excited to put the team first and get them ready for Rio.”

A star for the Army West Point women’s rugby team for two years, she scored 12 tries and 41 conversions in leading the Black Knights to the 2015 ACRA Sevens championship last spring, named MVP after recording 33 points in four matches. She was named an All-American before the 15s season in the fall and led Army with 159 points, scoring a team-high 16 tries and 35 conversions before leaving the academy to join the Olympic Training Center in November.

At only 21, she is the second-youngest player on the team, but has never felt left out because of her age.

“You really can’t tell,” Heavirland said. “The team does a really good job of making everyone equal. As long as you’re a good teammate you’ll be respected on the field and off the field. It’s a really good environment for anyone who can make it to this level.”

Team USA will travel to Florida for one day next week to play a scrimmage against New Zealand, then head to Houston for processing before traveling to Rio.

The women’s rugby team starts play right away in Rio, opening with two matches on Aug. 6, the first day of competition, including an early-morning game against Fiji at 10 a.m. MT.

That early game will prevent the women’s team from walking at Friday night’s opening ceremonies.

“It’s kind of a bummer but we have to do what we have to do,” Heavirland said.

She won’t be sticking around for the closing ceremonies either, leaving after the close of men’s rugby play to spend some time at home in Montana.

Heavirland will be one of two native Montanans at the Olympics. Billings-born Cody Miller, who was raised in Las Vegas, qualified for the men’s swim team as a runner up in the 100-meter breaststroke.

The Olympics will air on the networks of NBC with games also streaming online.

Whitefish's Nicole Heavirland rushes up the field for Team USA. Heavirland will make her debut for the U.S. National Rugby Sevens team next week in Atlanta. (Michael Lee/USA Rugby)

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