Sports

Whitefish Native Heavirland an Olympic Hopeful in Rugby

Polson pole vaulter Melinda (Owen) Withrow competing in women's finals at Olympic Trials

Nicole Heavirland, a Whitefish native who attended Glacier High School, is hoping to be selected for the U.S. Olympic women’s rugby team in the next week, while Polson pole vaulter Melinda (Owen) Withrow is competing in the finals of the Olympic Trials in Oregon on Sunday.

Withrow advanced to Sunday’s final competition after shining on Friday with a qualifying clear of 4.35. Withrow, a Polson native and assistant track coach at the University of Montana, will compete Sunday, July 10 at 3:30 p.m. in Eugene, Oregon seeking a spot on Team USA for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio.

Billings runner Christina Aragon ended her chase for the Olympics on Friday night, placing ninth in her semifinal heat of the women’s 1500-meter race at the Olympic Trials. The 19-year-old clocked 4:12.71. She finished 14th out of 23 semifinalists in two heats.

Heavirland, 21, has been training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California since November hoping to earn a call to Rio.

Heavirland, who was enrolled at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point before stepping away to pursue a trip to the Olympics, expects to find out next week whether she will be among 12 players on the Team USA women’s roster.

She made her debut for the USA National Rugby Sevens squad in late March. She has also competed with the Fifteens in Salt Lake City.

Heavirland grew up in Whitefish and attended Glacier through her junior year before transferring to Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where she graduated high school. She began playing rugby on the local Black and Blue team, based in Kalispell.

Sevens rugby, which uses seven players instead of the traditional 15, will make its debut at the Summer Olympics in Rio. Rugby will be played over six days, from Aug. 6-11. The world’s top women will be the first rugby players to compete for an Olympic Games medal in 92 years, with 12 teams competing.

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