Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Canada Player Profiles: Lara Gartner of Georgia Tech

On the pitch for Georgia Tech
Lara Gartner of Georgia Tech comes to Stars Rugby 7s as another recommendation from Coach Rosalind Chou of Life University (who also sent us Elissa Gerard & Nicole Strasko from Life, Jessica Wooden, Judy Dickson & Kassadi Wynter from the Atlanta Harlequins, and Chi Chi Chukwueke and Lara from Georgia Tech). Before Ros took over the Life Women's Rugby program she led Georgia Tech Women's Rugby to successes in the SIRC, USA Rugby 15s and 7s Nationals, and the CRC 7s. She had much to say about Lara's skills as a key contributor on the Georgia Tech team. Lara is often not as flashy as some of her teammates, but is a reliable workhorse who is consistent on the pitch.

Ros further went on to compliment Lara's rugby 7s abilities as a playmaker and finisher, that she was one of the few collegiate players that had earned a spot on the Atlanta Harlequins competitive 7s side this summer. Lara surpassed expectations in her first qualifier tournament, Atlanta's Midnight 7s, where she led the 'Quins in scoring for the day! The switch from collegiate rugby to women's club, especially with a WPL team, is not an easy transition to make. That Lara fit in so seamlessly speaks volumes.

Georgia Tech 15s
Lara will be traveling to Calgary having just spent time with the Women's Collegiate All American East Camp the weekend prior to this. She is currently one of many Stars players attending the Serevi Elite Residency Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. Just today we learned she was selected for the Women's Collegiate All American squad and their own Canada tour later in July! We cannot wait to see what Lara brings to the team at Stampede 7s. It bears noting that this is a homecoming of sorts for Lara, who spent part of her childhood in Winnipeg.

Here's her profile in her words:
I'm going into my fifth year at Georgia Tech as a biomedical engineering major and am graduating in December. I'm currently interning at CareFusion as a product engineer working with hand-held surgical instruments. I started playing rugby my freshman year in college after growing up in Winnipeg and Atlanta playing hockey, softball, baskball, track, and swimming.
I started as a lock until our backs coach, Rosalind Chou, saw me and thought I could be more useful in the backline. I then played inside center or flyhalf for my junior and senior year. Last summer, Georgia Tech started a sevens team that went to CRCs in Philadelphia and then the USA Rugby Collegiate Sevens National Championships in Greensboro, NC. For the latter tournament, I was named one of the 8 players to watch which was very exciting! After spraining my ankle during our game against Norwich on the first day, I was unable to play in the final games, however, I was still very proud of my Yellow Jackets! 

At USA Rugby Nationals
For 15s this season, GT went undefeated until conference playoffs. We beat University of Florida then lost to University of Central Florida in the final to finish second in the Division 1 Southern Independent Rugby Conference (SIRC); I was named an SIRC all-conference player. Even though we lost, we got a bid to Sweet Sixteens with UCF, Arizona State, and West Chester which was being played just down the road from us at Life University. We got to play West Chester, who ended up going all the way to Final Fours, which was a great experience.

I love playing great teams and being challenged by them and learning from them. It was a great way to end my rugby career at GT and a great start to my career on the Atlanta Harlequins 7s and 15s team in the fall. Last year, I was invited to the U-20s camp in Atlanta and this past weekend I attended the Women's Collegiate All-American Camp where I met Swift and Kim and a lot of other amazing rugby players. Next week I will attend the Serevi Elite Residency Camp and I can't wait to spend a week playing and learning more about 7s before heading out to Calgary with the Stars where I'll have some family members who live nearby coming out to support! 
At the Olympic Training Center

I also asked Lara for a recap of her experience at the WCAA camp and here it is:
The WCAA camp was a 3 day camp at James Madison University in Virginia where we had 2 practices a day with a lunch break in between and a required ice bath afterwards with all of the free Gatorade products we could ever want (yay for sponsors!). The practices focused on offensively creating space and the importance of trailers, contact body position and form, and defensive alignment and communication. The practices always incorporated "games" of some sort which made it even more fun and competitive. Then there was a team meeting where we talked about different defensive strategies or we had time with our team to strategize and prepare for the scrimmage on the final day. 
Breaking the line on the way to a try with the Atlanta Harlequins
Then on Sunday, we had our scrimmage of blues (dark side!) vs. pinks. It was so much fun playing with all of those amazing rugby players who knew what to do and when to do it and I felt that playing with such high level players really helped elevate my game as well. It was an amazing experience and I had so much fun meeting everyone from all over the country and getting to play with some of the best collegiate players out there. I wish I could go again next year!

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