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Fort Macleod athlete helps Dinos place third in nation

Sam Bassett helped the University of Calgary Dinos women's rugby team to the bronze medal at the national championships.

Sam Bassett helped the University of Calgary Dinos women’s rugby team to the bronze medal at the national championships.

A transition from the hard court to the rugby pitch paid off with a national medal for a Fort Macleod athlete.
Sam Bassett helped the University of Calgary Dinos win bronze at the national rugby championship at Victoria, B.C.
“I’m so absolutely proud to be a Dino,” 19-year-old Bassett said. “I’m so proud of my teammates. They’re 30 of my very best friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life.”
Bronze was the first national medal the Dinos have won since the women’s rugby team was formed at the Calgary university.
That Bassett was a starting wing for the Dinos is something she would never have predicted while playing sports at F.P. Walshe school in her home town.
“For me in high school I played every single sport but I definitely focused on basketball more,” Bassett said.
Bassett last year accomplished her goal of playing post-secondary sports like her aunts Lindy and Marie Lauder.
Bassett enrolled in the business program at SAIT and earned a spot on the Trojans basketball team.
She ended up getting an education of another kind.
“I did well in it but it definitely wasn’t something I wanted to do with my life,” Bassett said of business.
Uncertain about her future career, Bassett decided university might be a better fit, a place where she had more opportunity to explore subjects.
Bassett planned to put sports behind her and enroll at the University of Lethbridge to focus on her studies.
That is, until some of her former Flyers rugby teammates who were playing for the Dinos started talking to Bassett about joining their team.
Shannon Chisholm of Clareshom and Kasselle Menin of Vulcan were Bassett’s high school rugby teammates already playing for the Dinos.
Chisholm lobbied hard for Bassett to look at the rugby program.
“It took her a long time to convince me,” Bassett said.
Chisholm gave Bassett a tour of the university and introduced her to some Dinos teammates and the hook was set.
“Honestly, the athlete in me didn’t want to give up on an opportunity like that,” Bassett said.
Although Bassett focused on basketball in high school she was no slouch on the rugby pitch — earning an all-star nod in the southern Alberta league — something she credits to Flyers coach Andrew Walmsley.
“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have the skills . . . to love rugby so much.”
Bassett joined the Calgary Irish rugby club for the summer and wound up playing for Dinos coach Simon Chi.
“I loved his coaching,” Bassett said of Chi, who this year was named both Canada West and national coach of the year. “He’s a phenomenal coach.”
The Dinos had a strong regular season, going undefeated with wins of 29-20 over Victoria Vikes, 36-10 over University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, 64-10 over Lethbridge Pronghorns and 52-12 over University of Alberta Golden Bears.
At the Canada West championships the Dinos whipped the Pronghorns again 50-12 and downed Victoria 29-14.
Bassett was a substitute until the national tournament, when she started all three games at wing.
The Canada West title earned the Dinos a trip to Victoria for the national finals, where they opened with a 42-10 win over Acadia Ax-Men.
The Dinos hit a bump in the road in the semifinals when they dropped a 7-5 decision to Ottawa Gee-Gees.
“That was really heartbreaking,” Bassett said. “I thought we were a national championship team. At the same time I was not disappointed with how we played.”
The game ended with the Dinos in possession of the ball a few meters from the Gee-Gees goal line.
In the bronze medal game Nov. 6 the Dinos rebounded to defeat the Guelph Gryphons 24-12.
“We fought like hell,” Bassett said. “We played until the last minute.”
Bassett has formed a strong bond with her teammates and credits them for the personal growth she experienced learning to balance the demands of university sports and academics.
“You work so hard and it is so demanding,” Bassett said. “But it is so worth it.”
Bassett never imagined she would be playing rugby at the university level, but the past season convinced her it was the right choice.
“This last semester has been the best of my life. I have no regrets switching sports.”

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