Eye­ing rugby na­tion­als

Bax­ter look­ing for­ward to fifth and fi­nal year at Aca­dia

Valley Journal Advertiser - - SPORTS - BY JOHN DECOSTE ACA­DIA ATHLETICS

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.

the mix.

“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.”

Look­ing ahead

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.”

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