Katie Hathaway excelled as a three-sport athlete (field hockey, basketball, and softball) at Amesbury High School, captaining all three as a senior in 2008.
Rugby was not really on her radar; the rough and tumble sport just did not grab her attention, at least not until she arrived at Norwich University in Vermont. Urged to “give it a try,” she embraced the game.
Four years later, her résumé includes two national collegiate Division 2 championships.
The first title, a 34-5 win over Boston College, came in the National 7s championships at Texas A&M in December. Hathaway was named to the all-tourney team.
And two weeks ago, Hathaway captured Most Valuable Player honors as Norwich whipped Winona State, 82-12, for the National 15s crown in Palo Alto, Calif.
“Growing up, you dream of going to college and winning a national championship,” said the 22-year-old Hathaway, who graduated from Norwich earlier this month magna cum laude with a degree in political science.
“You'd see the winning teams celebrate on the field and it's something you hope you can be a part of someday. Winning the National 7s was great, but winning the National 15s was even better because I got to share it with all my teammates, not just a handful of them. It's really a dream come true.''
Hathaway was MVP of the National 15s even though she did not score a try or have an assist in wins over Vassar (38-5), Washington State (28-15), and Winona State.
“It was her overall play, she was simply amazing,'' said Norwich coach Austin Hall . “The rest of the team just followed her inspiring lead. She was our best overall player on the team, even though she never scored. From her defense to her attacking game, there was no one better,'' he said of his captain.
“In the semis against Washington State, we were down after 78 minutes before finally going ahead with two minutes to play. [Katie] never stopped playing, never backed down, and fed her teammates with encouragement.''
Hathaway played the No. 12 position her first three years on the team and had 35 tries. This year, “to fill a void,'' Hall moved her to No. 8, decreasing her try chances, and her total dipped to 16 — fifth best on the team.
At No. 8, Hathaway was a link between the forward pack, a stronger and tougher group, and the backs, who are faster. Hall said her position could be compared to a middle linebacker on defense, or a running back on offense in US football.
“Right in the middle,” he said.
Hathaway said that, having never played rugby before, she was hesitant at first. But, she said, she liked the atmosphere surrounding the team and the physical part of the game.
“I eventually figured out that the best way to play the sport was to learn it and the best way to learn it was to play it,” she said. “The running back and forth was like field hockey and the passing was like basketball.’’
May has been a busy month for Hathaway.
After winning the National 15s at Stanford, she caught a red-eye to Logan Airport and made the trek up to Northfield in time for graduation. Two hours after picking up her BA in political science and a military degree from the Military College of Vermont, she was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army.
Her next stop: quartermaster school at Fort Lee, Va., before reporting to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs.
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