NH Alumni serves as U.S. Rugby team captain; reaches quarter finals before loss to Tokyo


David Ramos

Gustaitis makes a crucial catch in a match against Russia in February. The team would go on to defeat Russia by a score of 33-17.

Ben Sersen, Reporter

     The 2021 Olympics featured over 600 American athletes (via USAToday) however, this year’s contest included something much more special for students and alumni at North Harford.

     North Harford graduate Abby Gustaitis was selected as one of the captains for the United States rugby team. Gustaitis played basketball and field hockey during her time at North Harford however she planned to drop her athletic career when she attended Maryland University to focus on her studies as a pre-med student.

     Gustaitis would go on to join Maryland’s women’s rugby team where she would discover her new passion. “There’s nothing like rugby for women. You can try and play American football, but it’s obviously not the norm. And so to find a sport that was completely equivalent to the men’s version, where rules are the same, [was important].” 

     “It’s relentless. The physicality, the finesse, the speed. You have to score on one side and then turn around and defend. There’s no hiding on a rugby pitch. It’s so hectic, but it’s so fun to watch. Everyone will fall in love with the sport,” claimed Gustaitis.

     The Olympian would go on to WBAL news to say “A friend of mine in the dorm was, like, ‘Hey, why don’t you come to rugby practice with me? You played sports,’ I’m, like, ‘Sure, whatever.’ I knew you, like, that you tackle people.”

     Gustaitis started her rugby career playing traditional 15v15 until she discovered 7v7’s. In 15v15, teams play for over 80 minutes however in 7v7, teams duke it out for just under 15.

     After traveling to gain experience on the rugby pitch, Gustaitis was invited to the Olympic training center in Chula Vista, California, in March 2015. 

     The former physiology and neurobiology major soon left her job in the medical field and moved across the country to train with the U.S. U.S. Women’s Rugby Sevens team.

     Gustaitis played as the captain of Scion Rugby, winning the championship in 2016. Serving as the team’s flanker, lock, and prop, she would follow the next year by taking fourth place in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland.

      A Norrisville native, Gustaitis graduated from North Harford as a certified emergency medical technician for the Norrisville volunteer fire company

     “She can still think logically when everyone is dog-tired,” says her teammate and former roommate Kasey McCravey. “She’s the captain of our team for a reason. I can’t think of anyone better to lead us to the Olympics.”

      “She’s just got this fighter attitude about her,” says head coach Chris Brown, “because she’s had to fight for pretty much every inch she’s gotten.”

     Emilie Bydwell, the team’s high-performance director, says, “Abby is such a wonderful spokesperson for the sport and the power of women’s sport and really just being who you are.”