By Christine Valdez
Web Production Assistant
Although the Winter Olympics were just held earlier this year and the next Summer games won’t be happening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil until 2016, New Jersey will be represented at the second Summer Youth Olympics coming up in Nanjing, China. Athletes must be between the ages of 15 and 18 to be a part of the 13-day competition from Aug. 16 through Aug. 28. The Garden State will be represented in Team USA by Denville resident Tess Feury and Ledgewood resident Kat Ramage, who will be part of the 12-girl roster for women’s rugby.
Feury and Ramage have played rugby together for a while on the same rugby team and were selected to Team USA after taking part in some Rugby camps and games, including tournaments. Both girls have been training for the sport over the years, and their training got them noticed by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Back in April, both girls where notified of their selections to the U.S. Youth Olympic team and according to Feury, they were told to send in their information to prepare for their upcoming trip to China for the Youth Olympics.
Both girls are excited to make the trip, as they prepare to leave for the games a few days prior to the competition accompanied by their families.
“I’m thrilled. I’m so honored to be able to play at such a high level and to represent my country,” said Feury.
Ramage, who received the news during a baseball game, said, “Actually I was at a Yankees game and my parents called me. They got the email and they called me up.”
While receiving the call, Ramage had the opportunity to share the news with her coach and team.
Coach Tom Feury, who has coached both Ramage and Feury in the Morris Rugby Corporation and happens to be Feury’s father, says he was thrilled to hear the news of both girls making the U.S. Youth Olympic team. Upon hearing the news he says that he was thrilled with Ramage’s selection because she had been a crossover athlete from soccer.
“Of course I was thrilled for both,” said Coach Feury. “In Tess’ case I was not surprised because she had been a regular visitor to the Olympic training center in Chula Vista California since last summer. She even played against Canada with the U.S. National side last fall. But I was especially happy for Kat. Kat is a crossover athlete who made rugby her priority over soccer just last year.”After some experience with national play in rugby with the Morris Rugby Corporation, Feury and Ramage prepare to face a new kind of competition with international competition. The Youth Olympics’ rugby tournament is expected to be completed within four days, according to the Youth Olympic website. The U.S. is expected to be part of the six teams competing for rugby gold against Canada, Australia, Spain, China and Tanzania.
Feury says that she is ready to play in the tournament and expects some of the competition to have an advantage going in.
“Some of the countries such as Canada and Australia have been preparing their youth Olympic team for a while now,” Feury said. “So they kind of have an advantage. They have been practicing together for almost a year but I think we’re definitely going to do pretty well. We have a talented group of girls and we’ve worked together a lot over the last few weeks.”
Despite the competition, Feury still believes that the team has a chance.
“It’s going to be a strong competition but I think we’ll be able to stay up there,” she said.
Ramage agrees about Australia and Canada being some of the biggest competition, but for her the upcoming Youth Olympics she’s focused on it being a new experience.
“Obviously we want to win, at least medal, but just being there and the experience is great on its own,” said Ramage.
Going into the Olympics, Feury was selected as team captain and both girls will have a level of comfort as they are teammates from the same rugby club. Coach Feury says that the girls being teammates will be a great asset to the team.
Ramage agrees. “It definitely makes you a lot more comfortable, just being with all the other girls. You already have someone there that you know,” she said.
With the Youth Olympics just a few days away, both girls look forward to the experience and the exposure to a new culture.
Ramage wants to take the opportunity to not only to learn more about Rugby during her time in China but to the other athletes’ cultures.
“Just about more of the cultures of where I’m going and we’re going to be staying in the Olympic Village too,” Ramage said.
Coach Feury hopes that the experience will spark curiosity within the girls.
“I hope this will spark their curiosity and create a lust to learn more,” he said.
Along with new the cultural experience, both Fuery and Ramage want to take the most they can from their experience in the rugby tournament.
“It’s definitely going to be like, obviously higher competition and very more intense environment,” said Feury.
Feury said that games will be of a faster pace than what both she and Ramage have been used to. Feury also said that she wants to talk to other athletes during the games and learn more about their training techniques.Rugby will be making its first appearance at the Youth Olympics this year and it sets the stage for the upcoming games in 2016 in Rio. Men’s rugby is also set to return to the Youth Olympics. It was last featured at an Olympic games in 1920. Women’s rugby is scheduled to return to the Olympics in 2016 and both Feury and Ramage hope to continue to train with aspirations of competing in Rio.
“That’s definitely a goal and dream of mine,” said Feury on hopes of the 2016 Olympics.
With the Youth Olympics setting the way for women’s rugby, Feury said that the youth program is being used to create a player pathway and that about half of the girls on the Youth Olympic roster are expected to return for 2016.
Although rugby will be part of the 2016 Rio program, Ramage is not only aiming to play in 2016 but also in 2020.
“Either one I’d love to play in,” Ramage said.
Diane Ramage, Kat Ramage’s mother, says that both Feury and Ramage’s selection as the only two New Jersey athletes on the rugby roster says a lot about their coach.
“He founded this Morris rugby program for kids, for youth and for 17 years now has been really pushing rugby throughout Morris County and this has been such a testament to him of what he’s done with these girls to get them as far as he’s gotten them,” said Diane Ramage.
Upon seeing her daughter make the U.S. Youth Olympic team, Diane says that she is proud of her daughter because she has worked hard and has made sacrifices in order to train for rugby.
“It’s an honor. She’s worked so hard, only a few years but she’s sacrificed a lot and given up a lot of things so she can be a part of this whole rugby experience,” said Diane Ramage.