As Sacred Heart rugby bumps up a level, Summit star Nicole Kimball is eager for a major opportunity
DILLON — Summit High School girls rugby coach Karl Barth doesn’t think Nicole Kimball has ever shied away from a challenge.
When the esteemed rugby coach thinks of a classic scrumhalf, he knows the position is often thought of as maybe not the biggest dog in the fight, but a dog that has a lot of fight in it.
“And she’s definitely got that,” Barth said.
Come fall, 2020 graduating Summit High senior Nicole Kimball will have the opportunity of a lifetime when the high school All-American becomes a student-athlete at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. With Sacred Heart, Kimball will have the chance to contribute right away in the all-important quarterback-like scrumhalf position for the Pioneers. And on top of that, it’ll come in the year the Pioneers’ girls rugby program moves up a competition level to more regular play against the best college women’s rugby programs in the country, such as reigning national champion Harvard, the U.S. Military Academy, Dartmouth, Brown and Quinnipiac.
“That’ll be a good gain for them,” Barth said about Kimball’s addition to the Sacred Heart team. “She’ll be getting in the mix right away playing against (fellow Summit High alum and Harvard star) Cassidy (Bargell) and some other top scrumhalfs in the league. It’s going to be fun for her, I think.”
After helping to lead Summit High to the proud program’s 12th-consecutive state championship this past fall, Kimball chose Sacred Heart over other top rugby programs. That included a top program in Lindenwood University where several Summit High grads ended up winning at the highest level of women’s college rugby.
At Sacred Heart, the Summit Cove resident will join rising sophomore fullback and fellow Summit High alum Izzy Keller of Silverthorne. During the pandemic and resulting shutdown, Kimball and Keller have trained together in preparation for the fall. Be it at Rainbow Park in Silverthorne or inside Kimball’s home garage-turned-weight-room in Summit Cove, the former and future teammates have done as much of the Sacred Heart strength and conditioning program as they can.
It’s a similar situation to the one Bargell and Kimball’s fellow 2020 graduate PK Vincze have undertaken of recent, as Vincze will join Bargell at Harvard in the fall. As of now, Harvard hasn’t specified a return date to campus for Crimson athletes, but Sacred Heart has announced the plan is for classes to start Aug. 31 after athletes report to campus Aug. 19 for preseason training.
Kimball said the family-first feel at Sacred Heart reminded her of the team-first bond and mentality with Summit, namely during the high school team’s annual trips to Utah for the season’s biggest tournament competing against the best teams in the country.
Once on campus, Keller said her Pioneers teammates can expect for Kimball to bring a large amount of intensity.
“She’s really passionate about rugby, and she is a very passionate person in general,” Keller said. “And structure to the team, for sure. … She will help bring our team to the next level and in turn our team will be able to compete at the next level.
“It’ll definitely be an immediate impact, especially at that scrumhalf role. It’s a really important one — you can argue most important. So having her at that place on our team is going to be phenomenal.”
Kimball herself said the Pioneers can expect for her to bring a strong work ethic as well as a well-rounded knowledge of the scrumhalf position thanks to her years under Barth’s tutelage. She hopes to be able to read the field well from the position come fall, even if it’s against college rugby’s best. And once she’s in that situation of high-level competition, she hopes her work to come over the summer helps her excel further.
“I’m definitely going to work hard this summer to improve my agility and overall explosiveness, so I can really get through the line,” Kimball said. “I’m feeling pretty confident going into it. I’m excited to keep improving. I think the biggest thing they can expect is a positive attitude and a willingness to do what needs to be done.”
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