Former multi-sport athlete at HHS grinds path to elite rugby club

by Stefanie Watson

Hudson native Caitlin Weigel spent her childhood playing various sports, eventually homing in on soccer and swimming. The three-time state qualifying swimmer and dedicated goalkeeper expected one of those specialties to dominate her storyline.

But one spring day during her Hudson High School sophomore year, a friend asked Weigel to give rugby a try. After one practice, she was hooked and she’s still playing professionally today as a “prop” with the Colorado Gray Wolves.

“Rugby is going to give you the greatest friends you’ll ever have,” she said of the emerging sport. “Teammates become sisters, friends and confidantes who have your back on and off the pitch. I can do so much more than I thought I could because the people alongside me are working toward the same goal and cheering me on. It can be hard to find that in female sports, but those relationships tend to flourish in the rugby community.”

Hudson High School athletic standout Caitlin Weigel breaks tackles as she carries the ball for the Colorado Gray Wolves.
Photos submitted.

Weigel said experience as a soccer goalkeeper was the perfect background for a rugby career. At Hudson, she served as the center for the girls rugby club, made the All-Ohio and All-American Select teams, and attended the USA Rugby Stars and Stripes Camp – an honor extended to only the top-ranked players nationally.

The team’s 2014-2015 season was especially rewarding.

“We typically placed in the top four teams in the state,” she said, “but there was a good group of freshmen who joined that year and were really into it.”

As senior captain, Weigel led the Explorers record-breaking team to state finals, where it finished runner-up. She was named the 2015 Ms. Rugby Ohio that year.

Ironically, playing rugby at the college-level was never Weigel’s goal. She ended high school as a four-year letter winner and two-event All-American in swimming and hoped to swim at Boston University or Boston College. While visiting Boston, however, she added a last-minute tour of Harvard University.

Weigel, dressed in her Hudson rugby jacket, fell in love with the campus and caught the eye of the tour guide who was a Harvard rugby player. Upon seeing her credentials both on and off the field, the women’s rugby coach at Harvard welcomed Weigel to its newly minted varsity team.

According to Weigel, the Harvard team grew a lot during her first two years as it transitioned from a club sport to a varsity team. 

“‘An attitude of gratitude’ was our motto that we embraced as a core value,” she said, crediting the guidance of Coach Mel Denham for the cultural shift.

Weigel also found it easier to succeed academically at Harvard as a member of the team.

“Rugby gave me a very rigid schedule that made me a more accountable student and taught me to use my time better,” she recalled.

Those time management skills prepared her post-college life where she works full-time as a data analyst for USA Olympic and Paralympic Committee and also plays with the Denver-based Gray Wolves, an elite women’s rugby club that travels the world.

The three-time national championship team has completed in seven finals since 2012 and boasts national team players – an exclusive rooster Weigel would like to see her name on someday.

She knows that means continuing to grind. 

“It won’t passively come to you. You have to keep working for it,” Weigel said. ∞

Featured Photo: Hudson High School graduate Caitlin Weigel (r) honed her rugby skills at Harvard before graduating and joining a professional club in 1.5 col