Campus Life

Olympic prize in sight

As one of the most decorated female rugby athletes in the brief history of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), Ashley Steacy (neé Patzer, she recently married fellow Pronghorn athlete and CIS champion, track athlete Sean Steacy) is just starting to make her mark on the world women's rugby scene.

The two-time CIS Player of the year and three-time CIS Champion has become a permanent fixture with both the Senior National full squad and Sevens teams with one goal in mind: representing Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"Thinking about the possibility of going to the Olympics is pretty surreal," says Steacy. "It's a very recent goal of mine and is still pretty far in the future, but I'm trying not to think too much about the end goal, and instead focus on the smaller steps leading up to it."

A relatively unknown local Lethbridge product, Steacy burst onto the university scene in the fall of 2005, being named both the Canada West and CIS rookie of the year, and serving notice to Rugby Canada that she was an athlete worth watching. She's thankful to have been able to use CIS sport as a springboard for success.

Ashley Steacy
Ashley Steacy is a fixture with the Canadian National Senior Women's Rugby program.

Despite taking time off to focus on her national team commitments and to play in New Zealand, Steacy will graduate this fall with a bachelor of arts in kinesiology.

"I love being in an environment that continually pushes me to be better and learn new things," says Steacy. "Being able to compete in my sport while receiving an education has meant the world to me. I wouldn't change or trade any part of my CIS experience.

Steacy made her national team debut on the Sevens side in February 2006 and the full squad in October 2007.

The offensive dynamo had her world coming out party at the 2009 Sevens World Cup in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Steacy finished fourth in tournament scoring with a team best 38 points. In the six-game event, she scored four tries and made nine converts, the second most in the tournament.

Last fall, despite breaking her hand only eight weeks prior, she suited up for the national senior team at the Women's Rugby World Cup in England. The team finished a disappointing fifth in the tournament but Steacy, as one of the youngest players on the team, is expected to be one of a handful of players that will make up the core group going forward.

Starting in January 2012 the national program will be centralizing for five months, with all the carded athletes moving to Victoria, B.C. During this time they will be training together five days a week and attend four tournaments, including a newly created Canadian event. Vegas Sevens and Hong Kong Sevens are two of the other tournaments on the schedule.

After five seasons in the CIS, Steacy amassed an impressive resumé that included numerous individual accolades, but her most cherished memories are the team successes she achieved with the Horns.

"The CIS has given me the opportunity to learn and grow not only as an athlete but as a person as well," says Steacy. "I've learned many life lessons over my 5 years here. Playing at a high level in my sport has definitely been the highlight of my university experience."

UPDATE: Steacy, along with current Pronghorn standout Kayla Moleschi (Canada West Rookie of the Year) played for the Canadian Sevens side that won the first ever IRB Women's Sevens Challenge Cup. The Canadians defeated England 26-7 to capture the title at the eight-team tournament Saturday,Dec. 3 propelling Canada to the top of the world women's sevens rankings. Two other Pronghorns, Kelsey Willoughby (2010 Canada West Player of the Year) and Brittany Orr played for the Maple Leaf side that also competed in the tournament.