Castle View senior Christie Albers knew she was somebody special as she watched other athletes accept college scholarship offers.
Albers did get a scholarship and it was a rare one.
She accepted a full-ride scholarship to Quinnipiac University in Hampden, Conn., to play women's rugby.
“I was the only person at my school to get a rugby scholarship,” said Albers, who played for the Castle Rock Pirates co-op high school team that draws players from Castle View, Douglas County, Legend and Ponderosa. “There's always more than one kid that gets a scholarship for other sports. I'm honored, I guess, to achieve that. We had to work hard to find schools that actually offered scholarships. All the work paid off.”
Rugby is an emerging sport, but it is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport. Most college squads are club teams and are governed by USA Rugby. There were 14 varsity men's teams and six women's varsity teams last season. Quinnipiac was one of only two Division I universities to offer women's rugby scholarships, and Quinnipiac is the lone college to have full-ride grants.
Albers is an inside center who played fullback in last November's state championship game against Summit, and that's when Quinnipiac coach Becky Carlson took notice.
“I actually got an email from a member of her family and it said you need to check this kid out,” said Carlson. “She had a full resume, a nicely put together package. I said I just can't take a kid off of a piece of paper, I need some game film. Her father put together a highlight film of her playing, I believe it was the state championship game, and she just made tackle after tackle.
“I was recruiting primarily for the fullback position and I contacted Christie. We talked, and after 20 minutes she said, `You do know coach, I just played fullback for that game.' I said, `Wait a minute, you have never played fullback before?' and she said, `No not really, I was just filling in for somebody.' She did a phenomenal job. She's just an all-around great kid. I knew it from the second I spoke to her on the phone. She's got quite a resume for athletics.”
Albers swims and is on the Castle View track team. She was a cheerleader for three years before giving that up to concentrate on rugby.
“We had a powder puff game during homecoming and I'm kind of fast, so everybody said I should play in it,” explained Albers. “There was a girl who was playing that was on the rugby team and said I would be real good at (rugby) and I should come to their practices. So I did and I got real interested in it. I like being aggressive and it's a lot of fun to play on a team because I've always been kind of an individual sport person.
“When I tackle somebody, it feels really great. I really like the contact side of it. It's sort of like football and soccer put together.”
Castle Rock Pirates coach Robbie Winter pointed out that rugby will be in the 2016 Olympic Games, and Albers could develop into a player who might make the American squad.
“She's an outstanding athlete in terms of physical capabilities, rugby knowledge and she's been a star for our team in the two seasons I've coached her,” Winter said. “She's been our top try scorer for the past two seasons. She's got outstanding ability, determination and character.
“She one of those girls that had a recurring dislocated shoulder. She would just pop the shoulder back in and carry on playing. There have been times when I've tried to bring her off the field and she refused to leave the field.”
Albers had shoulder surgery last November.
“I dislocated my shoulder two seasons ago, my junior year,” she said. “It got to the point where it would slide out and I would just like shake it back and it would go back in place. There was one game where my Dad said, `I can't stand to watch you put your shoulder back in anymore, and we need to take you to the doctor.'
“We went to the doctor and I was told if I wanted to play in college and be successful with my rugby career, I needed to have surgery to tighten everything back up so it wouldn't come out any more.”
Albers' shoulder will be strong so she can deal with the challenge of playing college lacrosse.
“It's really kind of a scary thought,” Albers said. “The girls are bigger, stronger and meaner. I'm kind of mentally prepared for it but I've got to get used to the fact that I'm going to be on a much higher level than I was on in high school.”
And, after attending a recent USA rugby camp in Fullerton, Calif., Albers knows it will be another task to become an Olympic hopeful.
“It gave me an idea if I work to go that far in rugby and try to get in the Olympics, that it is really going to be tough,” she said. “The camp was really rough.”
But, Albers is a special person.