The rugby dreams of a teen from Smiths Falls are taking her all the way to Harvard University.
Chloe Headland, who is currently a Grade 12 student at Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute (SFDCI), is set to join the Harvard University Women's Rugby Team in September 2021.
Headland started playing rugby in 2016 when she moved to Smiths Falls from the United Kingdom. In her first year, the team took home an OFSAA bronze medal, and during her Grade 10 year, the team won gold at a New Brunswick tournament.
In 2018, Headland was invited to attend the Harvard University rugby camp, where she impressed the coaching staff with her skills, which then led to this opportunity.
Headland says that the application process was long, and she needed to pass the SAT entrance exam. The Ivy League school received over 60,000 applications this year and accepted approximately 12,000, the Smiths Falls teen being one of them.
"When I found out, it was pretty much straight tears, but tears of joy obviously," she tells CityNews Ottawa. "Just pure excitement since then, to know that hard work paid off."
While school rugby has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she still trains four times per week, to make sure she stays in top physical shape for the start of her post-secondary rugby career.
Headland's rugby coach Jacob Swarbrick says she has overcome a lot to make her dream come true.
"Two years ago she had the loss of her mother, and her stepfather had to relocate for work, so she's been staying in this area, essentially living with a friend," Swarbrick said. "The sport has helped her persevere and definitely open the door for this huge opportunity, which she worked hard toward."
Swarbrick says Headland's determination, both academically and on the field, has paid off.
"It is very impressive that Chloe was accepted, given the number of applications," says coach Swarbrick. "We can't wait to hear what she will accomplish next year."
Headland won't be the only Smiths Falls talent at Harvard next season. She is joining fellow SFDCI alumni, Kim Hartung and Heidi Lucas, who are currently in their second year on the team.
"I'm excited to take it to the next step and play at university, and see what's going to happen there," Headland says.
On the academic side, the teen plans to major in finance and mathematics, with a career goal to become an actuary.