Eyeing rugby nationals
Baxter looking forward to fifth and final year at Acadia
Sara Baxter’s plans to return to Acadia for a fifth year have been made all the sweeter with the upcoming rugby nationals that will be hosted by the Wolfville university this fall.
“I was planning all along to be here five years for rugby, so with us hosting nationals, it’s worked out really well,” said Baxter, a Moncton native, in a recent interview. “Our team should be really strong, and there are a couple of former players planning to come back and play a fifth season this fall.”
Baxter is studying toward an honours degree in business administration, with a major in accounting and a co-op component.
“It’s been a fantastic option,” she said of the co-op. “I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t choose it if they had the chance.”
As part of the co-op program, Baxter spent from January to June 2017 studying abroad at Plymouth University in Plymouth, England.
“Plymouth doesn’t have a business agreement with Acadia, so I chose computer science. It was really different, and harder than I expected,” she said.
“The whole concept of school is different in the U.K. My course was computing, and it was a different experience. I could only stay one semester, so I had to pick somewhere where I knew the language.”
At the same time, it turned out to be a really positive experience.
“The culture was amazing; I got the chance to travel, and I got to play for their rugby club team,” she added.
It was a different experience, she said, but still rewarding.
“The quality of rugby was lower than here — the club league was probably the equivalent of high school here. I had fun, and got to play other positions, which I’ve never been able to do here,” she said.
As an added bonus, “the team I played on made it to the championship game.”
Fell in love with Acadia
Now 21, Baxter started playing rugby at age 14 in Grade 9, her first year at Bernice MacNaughton High School in Moncton.
“Before that, I wasn’t interested in contact sports. I was a competitive figure skater from Grade 4 until I graduated from high school.”
As for how she ended up at Acadia, Baxter noted that her entire immediate family are Mount Allison grads.
“I toured Mount A in Grade 11, but I felt too comfortable there. I also knew I wanted to play varsity rugby, and Mount A didn’t have a team,” she said.
That’s when Acadia came into Acadia University’s Sara Baxter is stoked to be returning to the school for a fifth year — and continuing to play on the school’s rugby team.
“I visited Acadia, and fell in love with it at first sight. I never even applied anywhere else,” she said.
It helped that Acadia had a toplevel women’s rugby program that was on the rise, and “I also have family connections here (Eatons, and Bill and Margaret Parker).”
Passion for playing
She has always played in the forward line, but at the same time, has been very versatile.
“Since my first year, I’ve played every position in the forward line, one through eight. In my third year, I played all eight forward positions in the same season. I’m known as a really versatile player.”
Baxter’s rugby experience at Acadia couldn’t have been better.
“The team has done incredibly well in my time here. We’ve played in the AUS final all four years, won a conference championship, and played at nationals three times.”
Baxter, who has gotten to play at nationals twice, has lost some time to injury.
“My third year, I played all season with a broken foot. The doctor said I couldn’t hurt it any more by playing,” she said. Then, last fall, she missed another six weeks due to a knee injury.
“Thanks to the amazing physio staff here, I was able to make it back for the playoffs and nationals.”
Now that she is committed to returning this fall, she is eyeing another AUS championship win and has high hopes that the team can do better at nationals. In their previous three appearances, “we’ve had trouble winning that first game.”
This fall is shaping up to possibly be Acadia’s year, she adds.
“We’ve had some incredible recruits visit this off-season. They
seem very talented, with long lists of rugby accomplishments. Hopefully, some of them will end up choosing Acadia,” she added.
The 2018 recruits will join a talented core of returning players, most notably all-Canadians and AUS all-stars Danielle Wisen, Harley Tucker and Lauren Melanson, along with AUS all- star Natasha Johnson.
“We’ve has a great atmosphere in our off-season training. We’re returning most of our roster. There were only four of us in our fourth year last season, and I’m already committed to return,” she said.
“Two or three women who played two or three years ago (and who have a year of eligibility remaining) are planning to come
back, and that number may still go up. I’m expecting there will be great competition for spots on the roster.”
Baxter is “definitely here for the full first semester” this fall. Although she only has three credits left to graduate, she plans to stay for a full fifth year.
After graduation, she hopes to attend law school and study corporate law.
Because rugby is a seasonal sport ending in November, Baxter has had plenty of opportunity during her time at Acadia to become involved in extracurricular and community activities. She has taken full advantage, and has always had a full and rewarding schedule.
“I’ve never had much trouble filling my time,” she says. She is co-president of the Acadia Players’ Association, along with volleyball Axewoman Sarah Ross and hockey Axeman Liam Maskant. “It’s been great getting to know then both and working with them.”
In their roles with the APA, Baxter and Maaskant got to take part in the Acadia Sports Hall of Fame induction last fall.
“It was an incredible experience,” she says. “All the inductees were amazing. You don’t realize we have so many great people.”
Baxter is also one of the project managers for Enactus Acadia, part of “a global organization based on using social entrepreneurship to solve community problems and fill community needs. It’s been a lot of fun.”
She also competed with Enactus, “and made it to nationals. I’m excited at that.”
She ran an initiative called Project Regenerate, through which elementary and middle school students aged 7-12 are taught about entrepreneurship and how to use waste (specifically, recycled crayons) as a resource.” Project Regenerate has also partnered with the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board and Evangeline Middle School on workshops.
As vice-president of marketing for the Acadia Business Society, she was involved in hosting a conference with other Atlantic universities attending. She has also been kept busy “volunteering with various other groups.”
Baxter has “no regrets at all” with her choice to attend Acadia.
“This has been the perfect school for me for my undergrad. I’ve loved it here, and have never once second-guessed my decision.”