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Rugby earns Karee Helgerson a full ride


The Rex Putnam senior commits to NCAA D-I Quinnipiac

by: JOHN DENNY - It was a happy occasion for Putnam senior Karee Helgerson (seated) on May 27, as she signed a letter of intent to accept a full-ride scholarship to Quinnipiac University to play rugby. On hand to help celebrate the occasion were (from left) Rugby Oregon Senior All-Star coach Greg Tracy and Karees parents, Debbie and Karl Helgerson.Rex Putnam High School senior Karee Helgerson made Oregon rugby history last week, when she signed a letter of intent to accept an athletic scholarship to Quinnipiac University, a NCAA Division I school in Connecticut.

“She’s the first girl from Oregon ever to sign on a scholarship,” said Greg Tracy, who coaches Helgerson and 24 other top Oregon players on Rugby Oregon’s Red Hawks Senior All-Star Team.

Tracy said Helgerson’s being recruited by Quinnipiac is a huge achievement, because Quinnipiac is one of only eight colleges in the U.S. that fields a women’s varsity rugby team, and the sport of rugby is relatively new to Oregon.

Oregon high school rugby began in 2001 and Helgerson did not take up the sport until her freshman year at Putnam.

“I’d played a whole array of other sports and was always very aggressive,” said Helgerson. “In basketball, I’d never get to finish a game, because I was always fouling out.”

Helgerson says that it was at a basketball game that someone suggested she might be good at rugby. She turned out for rugby her freshman year at Putnam, and she’s been hooked ever since.

“She’s desirable [as a player] because of her physical stature, her leadership on the field, and her ability to play,” said Tracy. “She could play anywhere on the field.”

Helgerson’s main position in high school has been forward, directing the scrums and setting up her teammates for scoring.

Her North Clackamas team won the “plate division” of the Rugby Oregon State High School Championships this spring. She’s busy this month playing with the Rugby Oregon Red Hawks Allstars in a regional tournament, featuring teams from seven western states.

Helgerson’s scholarship is $20,000 a year for four years.

Until late this spring her plans were to attend and play rugby at the University of Victoria.

“University of Victoria had been my plan all year, but then Quinnipiac fell into my lap,” Helgerson said. “Victoria couldn’t match Quinnipiac’s [scholarship] offer. That was the deciding factor.”

“We think it’s awesome [that Karee is getting going to play Division I rugby],” said Karee’s mom, Debbie Helgerson. “Only, we wish she were closer to home.”

“We’re very proud of her,” said Karee’s dad, Karl Helgerson. “It’s very exciting!”

“I’m very appreciative of all of the support I’ve gotten from my parents, and the support and opportunities I’ve received from Rugby Oregon,” Karee Helgerson said.

A 3.68 student, Helgerson has excelled in other activities besides rugby at Putnam. She’s the current vice-president for the school’s thespians and she sang alto as a member of Putnam’s state championship choir.

“Right now I plan on studying theater and majoring in fine arts [at Quinnipiac],” Helgerson said. “But I’m keeping my options open.”

Helgerson said of her career ambitions: “Hopefully, performing on Broadway. That’s always been a dream of mine.”