The Rimbey Spartans have put together one of the top high school girls rugby programs in the province.
So when Courtney Holtkamp was moved onto the senior team in Grade 8 it was an indication of her talent.
“I was attending a Christian school at the time and the public school was short of players for their junior team and asked if there were any players who wanted to play,” she explained. “So I went out for the team and they eventually moved me up to the senior team.
‘The coach at the time told me I had a lot of potential and to keep working at it.”
She did just that and less than four years later she’s developed into one of the premier U18 players in the province.
The 16-year-old Grade 11 student is still playing with the Rimbey senior team, which finished third in the provincial high school Division II championships last season, and will join the Red Deer Titans Elite U18 team this season. She also competed for Team Alberta at the Canadian 7s U18 championships in Vancouver.
Holtkamp was first seen by the provincial coach at a Canadian prospects camp Jan. 9 in Red Deer.
“It was the only session I was able to attend,” she said. “I wanted to go out and see what it was like.
“They hold two sessions a month and there were about 80 girls and they picked 20 who are now in England. I hope to attend more of those camps and see were it goes.”
What she did do was play for the Alberta 7s team, finishing second. The championships were held in conjunction with the CIS championships and an international tournament. The final was played in B.C. Place in front of 30,000 fans.
“There were a lot of people … it was a great experience,” she said.
Holtkamp played centre back in high school and with the normal 15-a-side teams but played up front with the 7s.
“It was a little different playing up, but it was fun,” she said, adding she enjoys the 15s better.
“Mainly because I play it more, so really I kind of like both.”
At five-foot-11 and 180-pounds Holtkamp has the size to play wherever she wants.
She grew up working on a farm and takes her training seriously. She works out with the Titans School of Rugby and spends two days a week at Ignite Fitness in Red Deer as well as working out at home.
“There was a day last week when I worked out four times,” she said. “I work on speed and agility as well as spending 30 minutes on my core, 30 minutes on my upper body and 30 on the lower.”
She also practises twice a week with her high school team and will begin shortly working with the Titans U18 team.
An indication of her strength is last month she dead-lifted 315 pounds.
“That was last month, maybe it’s more now,” she said with a laugh.
But rugby isn’t the only thing she enjoys. She also played high school volleyball and competes in barrel racing, breakaway roping and team roping.
“I don’t compete seriously in team roping, but do it at home where we have steers,” she explained.
Holtkamp has two more years of high school rugby before she turns her attention to university.
“I hope to put enough hard work in to play at university and I hope to progress enough so that one day I can play for the Canadian team,” she said.
Looking at her dedication and work ethic, and her progression over the first three years in the sport, there’s no doubt she will be a strong contender for the national team down the road.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can also be seen at www.rdc.ab.ca/athleticsblog.