The recent Oregon State alumna will join the USA Rugby Women's Eagles for the Amsterdam Sevens as she continues her quest to represent the country in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Hannah Lockwood, who graduated from Canby High School in 2009, will gain international experience as a member of the USA Rugby Women's Eagles roster for the Amsterdam Sevens. Above, Lockwood breaks free during the Collegiate Sevens national tournament in December 2012 in Texas.Hannah Lockwood views her rugby career as a mountain, and she’s closer to the summit than she’s ever been before.

The Canby High School alumna was recently chosen to join the USA Women’s Eagles for the Amsterdam Sevens, the final round of the International Rugby Board’s annual Women’s Sevens World Series.

The tournament provides an excellent chance for Lockwood, who is motivated by her unwavering desire to represent the country in the 2016 Olympics, to showcase her skills on a global stage and prove she’s worthy of the invitation.

“I have always been too small and too slow to be a consideration, but I also have always been too stubborn to let someone tell me I couldn’t achieve the impossible,” she said. “It has been anything but easy to get this opportunity, but every sacrifice has been worth it.

“Every time I can get selected for an international rugby tour means I gain more experience playing at that level. It does make (a spot on the Olympic team) seem more possible.”

Of course, it’s no coincidence that Lockwood was asked to make the trip to the tournament in the Netherlands. The recent Oregon State alumna has spent ample time at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., over the last six months.

Her commitment has helped her earn a place on coach Ric Suggitt’s 12-woman roster for the Amsterdam Sevens, which will be held May 16-17. Pool play will pit the Eagles against top-ranked New Zealand as well as Spain and Ireland.

Lockwood, though, knows that she isn’t just competing against her opponents — she’s also battling her national teammates for access to future opportunities.

Like, say, the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where women’s rugby will be featured in the Games for the first time.

“Every day is pressure,” she said. “Every day you come out to training and have to perform your best because, if you don’t, there are girls all over the country who will gladly fill your shoes. I think now, being selected over some girls who previously have been selected, you have to realize that you are now on top of the mountain and it’s much harder to stay on top than to climb it. There is always someone who wants to knock you off. Now, the pressure is staying on top.”

Where it all began

The top was virtually inconceivable for Lockwood when she first picked up a rugby ball at Canby.

She joined the high school’s upstart girls rugby program simply because it gave her an escape from “difficult times” and an avenue for making friends.

But during her career with the Cougars under the tutelage of coach Ben Winegar, she ended up gaining much more than she expected from the sport.

“I was 16 and kind of lost with what direction I wanted to take in life, and I had nothing motivating me to get better,” she said. “Rugby was the one thing that was constant. Throughout the three years I played for Canby, I really started to discover my true potential as an athlete and person. ... I learned that you have to bust your butt a bit to get something — a trait that has been one of the main foundations in my success today.”

After graduating from Canby in 2009, Lockwood attended Oregon State and played on the university women’s club team for four years.

And although she was named a first-team Collegiate All-American as a senior — a distinction that allowed her to travel to France with some of the nation’s best young players — her involvement went far beyond the pitch.

She became the club’s president, learned how to officiate the sport, spearheaded clinics for area youth and coached Corvallis High School’s girls rugby team. She also helped to establish the Beavers’ program in Sevens, the version of the sport that will be played in the Olympics.

“That is where I really fell back in love with the sport and where I decided I wanted to pursue the Olympics,” Lockwood said.

And a spot on the Eagles is a big part of that pursuit.

“She’s been working very hard the last couple years to break into that squad,” OSU women’s rugby coach David Dickson said. “Making the Eagles is a huge accomplishment in rugby — it’s the biggest stage of the sport in this country. And with the Olympics just around the corner, she’s in the hunt for a chance to go to Brazil with Team USA in 2016. This is a testament to Hannah’s hard work.”

Always an ambassador

As much work as Lockwood has put into climbing the ranks of women’s rugby, she is also passionate about the growth and development of a sport that rarely receives national attention.

In addition to her responsibilities as an aspiring Olympic athlete, Lockwood currently works as an operations coordinator at the San Diego branch of Seattle-based Serevi Rugby.

The organization, which was founded by former Fijian rugby union player Waisale Serivi, aims to develop the sport in the U.S. and beyond by partnering with the national governing body and other groups.

“Right now, I pretty much work two full-time jobs,” she said.

Whether she’s training or doing outreach, Lockwood finds herself trying to combat the perceived image of rugby as a teeth-bashing, beer-chugging, wild hooligan sport.

In her eight-plus years of experience in rugby, she hasn’t come across those stereotypes.

“The vast majority of (people) playing the sport or growing the sport don’t act that way,” she said. “As the sport continues to grow and more and more rugby organizations form, the safety of the sport and the professionalism continue to evolve. ... People assume that no pads means danger, but in reality that’s not the case.”

Lockwood hopes the inclusion of rugby in the upcoming Olympics fosters a better understanding of and appreciation for the sport. And as she prepares to join the Eagles in Amsterdam, she’s honored to be a part of the process.

“I just think of what it means to wear the jersey that was worn by so many amazing athletes that came before me and all of those who will wear it after me,” she said.

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