Hannah Lewandowski has taken her rugby skills from the local level to the national stage.
A standout forward for the Rainier Plateau Junior Rugby Club, she was spotted by scouts for USA Rugby and invited to join the roster for the 2013 High School All-American Stars vs. Stripes Game. The incoming White River High junior spent four days last week in Greeley, Colo., training with and competing against the best teenage players from all corners of the nation.
Fifth girls were selected by USA Rugby for the national roster and Lewandowski is the first player, boy or girl, selected from the Plateau organization.
Andy Ramsey, who heads the Rainier Plateau Junior Rugby Club, has nothing but praise for Lewandowski as both a person and an athlete. Popular and affable when she’s not competing, she can be something of a bull on the pitch, he said.
“She can just batter her way through…she has no fear,” the veteran coach said. Noting that Lewandowski has become a master of the stiff-arm, an effective blow that sheds lesser players, Ramsey said Lewandowski “can cover a lot of ground carrying the ball.”
The defense often swarms to her, making the team more efficient when the ball is tossed outside.
“She’s just a great, aggressive player,” Ramsey said.
Lewandowski benefits on the rugby pitch from all the time she spends on the wrestling mat at White River High. Ramsey said the two sports “very much go hand in hand” because each requires a low center of gravity combined with great upper-body strength, along with great aerobic conditioning.
During the 2012-13 season, Lewandowski earned second-place honors at the Washington state Class 2A championships.
Heading directly from wrestling to rugby, she capped the regular season by making a state all-star team, the Washington Loggers. The state team took on clubs from Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Northern California and emerged as champions of the interstate tourney.
With perhaps 250 girls participating, Lew-andowski was tabbed for Most Valuable Forward honors and made an obvious impression on the USA Rugby scouts in attendance. She was first told she was being considered for a berth in Colorado and, in June, received a confirmation email.
USA Rugby hosted seven regional all-star tournaments. Others were in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Colorado, California and Georgia.
From those tournaments came 100 players – 50 girls and 50 boys – who gathered last week in Colorado. They arrived at camp July 9 to work with top coaches, medical staff, fitness and nutrition specialists.
“From nutritional information to college counseling and individual direction from national team coaches, these potential Olympians and Rugby World Cup participants will benefit throughout the entire week,” said Luke Gross, player development manager with USA Rugby.
The boys and girls were divided into a “Stars” team and a “Stripes” team and played a showcase game Saturday morning.