The summer hasn’t just been about vacation for some students. Kingwood High School’s Whitney Wilson had quite a summer. She traveled all the way to China, however, she wasn’t there for a vacation, she was there representing her country at the youth Olympics. Whitney was chosen to the United States Rugby team.
Wilson was amazed by the atmosphere of the Olympic Games. “It was a lot of fun. The rugby was awesome. They completely exceeded every expectation I had for it. It was just like you’d imagine the Olympics to be,” Wilson said. Aside from the actual games it was a very easygoing atmosphere for the youth Olympians. “It was really friendly. It didn’t matter what country you were from. Everybody talked to each other and said hi,” Wilson remarked. The team and she even hung out with girls from other countries like Spain and Australia.
During the matches team USA had a subbing rotation going so all of the girls were splitting the playing time to keep everyone fresh. The girls would play the whole game, half the time, 4 minutes to go, or 2 minutes to go. “It’s really fast and really tiring especially at that level,” Wilson admitted, “Everybody played equal playing time.” During the matches other athletes from other sports were at the game to watch and support the team. It was sold out almost every game. During the teams stay they took in some of the other events as well. They watched anything from Handball to Taekwondo. They wanted to see sports that they would not normally see back home while showing support for their fellow countrymen as well.
In order to be considered for the team the girls must be nominated by committee members that were able to watch them compete in national and regional tournaments after first filling out an online application through USOC. “They didn’t tell us anything about it. They just said you’ll hear back soon,” Wilson said. She was noticed in Las Vegas at a 7s tournament in January. While she was at a rugby camp at Penn State in Pennsylvania she received an email informing her that she had made the USA youth Olympic rugby team. “I cried! It was awesome! I was so excited. Since March I had checked my email every single day because I figured that’s how they were going to contact me. It was something that I was always looking forward to,” Wilson said of her reaction to making the team. The committee had emailed her stating that they would know about their status on or before July 2nd. It was simply stated: If you don’t get an email, you don’t make the team. It was around 8:00 PM and she still had not received an email. She had all but prepared her concession speech when she finally received the email she was waiting for. “I cried I was so happy.”
Wilson worked out with a professional trainer to prepare her for the games. She also played in a variety of tournaments over the summer. The team had a camp in San Diego, CA at the Olympic training center that was 5 days long. Unfortunately the team only had about 3-4 actual practices with each other before they were thrown into competition.
When they were back on the field, the focus turned to winning. Though they knew it wouldn’t be easy as Australia, Canada, and China were heavily favored to win they weren’t going down without a fight. Ultimately, Wilson and her team lost to Australia in the semis and then to China in the 3rd place match ending their Olympic games. They finished 4th overall.
Now Wilson can focus on the Kingwood High School season ahead. After finishing 2nd in state last year, the girls are hoping to win it all this year.
Written by: Mark M. Johnson