Jetsetting summer for United rugby player

You won’t find Willow Beyea lamenting the dog days of summer.

The 17-year-old rugby player for United Rugby Club and Dr. Charles Best secondary school has been pursuing her passion for the sport on two continents and at three levels — provincial, national and international.

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Beyea, who lives in New Westminster, is on Vancouver Island this week to test her mettle at the Canadian national women’s training camp. That comes on the heels of playing for Team B.C. at the Western championships in Regina, Sask. 

In July, Beyea was part of the lineup with the Celtic Barbarians, a North American elite team based in Alberta, that competed at the World Games in Paris, France.

Beyea said her rugby boots may be on the ground but her head is still among the clouds of her whirlwind experiences in the past month.

“I think going to Paris was a pretty big thing,” she said. “It’s made me realize that, through rugby, I can go to all these amazing places.

That’s an understatement.

Beyea’s journey to France with the Barbarians was an eye-opener, she said. The team finished third in the U18 tournament that is part of the international competition for young athletes in five sports, including Rugby Sevens, soccer, badminton, basketball and handball.

Against the national team from Ireland, as well as three top club teams from France, Beyea said the Barbarians handled themselves quite well.

“I think we put up a pretty good fight,” she said. “It was an all-around good competition.”

When the team wasn’t playing, players were able to explore the city. They even visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was heavily damaged by a massive fire last April.

Beyea said a special highlight was the World Games’ opening ceremonies, which were held on the Champ de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower.

But no sooner was that adventure over when Beyea was off to the provincial team’s selection camp for the Western 15s championships in Regina, where the side finished fourth overall. Then it was on to the national camp.

Beyea, who has been playing rugby since she was five, said her love for the sport comes naturally. Her dad, Mike, is a club coach, and her mom, Julie, used to play and is still involved as an official.

Beyea said her summer of rugby has honed her focus on taking her passion as far as it can take her — to a university team and then, perhaps, on to the senior national side.

“That would be incredible,” she said. “To play for my country, in the red-and-white jersey, and have all my family and friends see me, that would be a pretty great feeling.”

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