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More Vernon girls ready to ruck up the rugby league

In their first season in decades, the Seaton Sonics will have two teams ready to take the Okanagan by storm

At the beginning of the school year, a girls rugby team for W.L Seaton Secondary seemed far fetched.

Now, just four months into the spring semester, the Sonics will be fielding not one, but two teams to compete in rugby sevens, against other Okanagan high schools.

It all started due to the tenacity and determination of one student, Ruby Kaltiainen.

“Ruby was a student at Beairsto (elementary), and she was really looking forward to playing rugby,” said Fiona Brown, coach of the Seaton team and a teacher at Beairsto. “I remember saying to her that she could play in high school, but Ruby mentioned that there was no coach for a team.”

Once Kaltiainen got into high school, COVID hit, and again she was at a period where she couldn’t find any coaches for a team.

“I told her by Christmas, that if she still couldn’t find anybody to coach, that I would find out how to make it happen for her,” Brown said.

Kaltiainen was able to find 10 girls at Seaton that were game to play, and all of a sudden, the wheels began to turn.

Brown emailed her principal and phys ed teacher, who then messaged Clarence Fulton Secondary, as they knew that they had a team for the 2023 season. Fulton put Brown into contact with Melaina Ovington, who helped to coordinate the process of fielding a team.

Another Beairsto teacher, Aly Lypchuk jumped at the chance to help coach and all of a sudden, a team was created.

The Seaton Parent Advisory Council (PAC) also chipped in, providing jerseys to the girls.

Brown, expecting to see 10 girls show up at the first practice, was blown away by having double the amount, affording the school to field two squads.

Seaton will be participating in rugby sevens, a much faster version of the sport, with just 14 minute long games. The two teams will give the opportunity for all the girls a chance to play.

“It’s exciting to see women’s sports grow outside of their normal realm,” Brown said. “You learn so much at team building when you are new together, and experiencing all this for the first time. There’s no advantage to being a soccer player or a volleyball player. You’re all in this together in rugby.”

For three girls on the team, Naomi King, Mya Koleba and Piquette LaFrance, the creation of a high school rugby program was much needed, and represents a vital opportunity to get more girls involved in athletics.

“I have been playing since I was little and I am really passionate about the sport,” said Grade 11 student Koleba. “I figured that the more girls that can get into it, the more popular it can become and the more girls can play in the future.”

“My dad was always into rugby, so I played with him a little bit,” added Grade 12 student King. “When I knew there was going to be a rugby team, I was super into it and really excited to play.”

“I’ve met a lot of cool people during it,” Grade 10 student LaFrance explained. “I think it’s something that I’ve grown very determined to do.”

King also mentioned that rugby has been a forgotten about sport, especially for girls her age.

“I’ve never met a lot of people that play rugby. So I think it’s really unique that we’re all kind of starting to really enjoy it.

Koleba, who used to have to commute to Kamloops to play, added that it was super important to have local teams within their own high school.

The Sonics first match will be Wednesday, April 12. They will be competing against other Okanagan high school teams, like Rutland, Kelowna, Salmon Arm, Merritt and Fulton, marking a rivalry a long time in the making.

“We are going to bring it,” said King. “We are really getting pretty good for just starting this year.”

READ MORE: WATCH: High school girls rugby returns to Vernon pitch

READ MORE: WATCH: Senior girls rugby returns to Vernon high school


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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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