Rugby on the Fly

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With almost no prior experience in the sport, Pasadena Poly grad Miranda Wakimoto has become one of the USA’s most promising talents. (Photo courtesy of Lynne Brown)

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By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor

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A local athlete will be in the world stage spotlight Saturday, as the United States Women’s Under-20 National Rugby Team plays on the final day of the 2011 Nations Cup in Santa Barbara.

Pasadena’s Miranda Wakimoto plays half-fly position on the squad, a position somewhere between quarterback and halfback in American football. The offensive attack essentially begins with the half-fly, and the player at this position must be one of the best kickers — if not the best — on the team.

Wakimoto took up rugby with zero experience, as a walk-on at Boston University. A four-year starter at point guard on the Polytechnic basketball team, she had looked to Colorado College after high school. However, as a Division II school, no athletic scholarship was available at Colorado, so she opted for the academic experience of BU.

“She knew almost nothing about rugby, even though she had played flag football,” explained her father, Carl Wakimoto. “She wanted to play football in high school, but she was a little bit too small.”

While basketball is usually considered a contact sport, compared to rugby, it’s more like afternoon tea. Essentially football with pads or hard helmets, it’s one of the most punishing team sports in the world. Broken bones, torn muscles and gouged eyes are all part of the game.

At Boston U, Wakimoto excelled at her new sport, showing sure hands, sharp speed and an uncanny aptitude for the rough-and-tumble nature of it and becoming the president of the team. Last season the BU squad went undefeated in the New England Union league and Wakimoto, who will be a senior this fall, earned an invitation to try out for the U.S. national U-20 team.

After a hard-fought victory over South Africa last week, Wakimoto and the USA were preparing for a Wednesday evening match against Canada. A win there would send them to the Nations Cup championship game Saturday against England, who have thus far dominated the competition.

The tournament is taking place in Harder Stadium at UC Santa Barbara. If the USA earns a place in the final, they will match up against England at 4 p.m. Saturday. A loss would send them to the third-place game at 2 p.m.

For more information, visit womeneaglesu20s.blogspot.com/

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