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Former APSU Track and Field Athlete becomes member of U.S.Women’s Rugby Team

 

Austin Peay State University Lady Govs - APSUClarksville, TN – Stop me if you’ve heard the one about the track star that became a member of the United States women’s rugby team. No? Then allow me to introduce you to Cenitra Hudson.

A Memphis native, Hudson recently completed her career as a member of Austin Peay’s women’s track and field team. A natural athlete, Hudson excelled at various times in the sprints and jumps for head coach Doug Molnar’s Lady Govs from 2010-13, reaching as high as fourth place in the Ohio Valley Conference in the triple jump and 4x400m relay in 2011 and graduated owning Austin Peay’s indoor triple jump record.

U.S Women’s Rugby Team

U.S Women’s Rugby Team

After earning her degree in Health and Human Performance, Hudson took a month off, with plans to continue training for upcoming track meets in December. Then she received an unusual request.

“Coach (James) Jenkins was in California for a meet and went to a rugby practice,” Hudson said. “The National Sevens coach (Ric Suggett) was looking for people to try out, people with speed and power, and I guess Coach Jenkins suggested me.

“When they first asked me about trying out I said no, because I didn’t know anything about rugby; I’d never played it and rarely saw it being played. But Coach Jenkins recommended that I reconsider, and after thinking about it, he was right. Not many people ever get the opportunity to play for a national team, after all.”

So off to California Hudson went for a tryout, where she was pitted against players with rugby experience dating back to their high school and college days.

“I was behind some of the other players at the tryout just because I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do,” Hudson said. “As the only crossover athlete at the tryout, I was a little nervous. Thankfully, everyone was nice enough to take the time to explain everything to me, which helped out a lot.”

That doesn’t mean the tryout was without its hiccups. The first time Hudson was tackled, her shoulder popped out of place – “I thought, ‘Oh God, I don’t know if I can do this,’” she says now – but walking through things step-by-step brought her closer to understanding her new sport.

Armed with an overwhelming amount of new knowledge and a rugby ball courtesy of the national team coaches, Hudson returned to Tennessee to train and build her knowledge base of this new sporting endeavor. Although she still plans to train for the long and triple jump this fall, her training now includes more upper-body work to add strength to her 5-7 frame.

“I still train pretty similarly to what I did for track,” Hudson said. “I still need speed to play Sevens, especially on the outside, but now it’s more endurance and less sprints.”

Her coach with the national team, Ric Suggitt, has been impressed with her commitment and her continued work once she returned to Tennessee.

“She sent me a couple of videos of her hitting the football sled, getting used to contact,” said Suggitt. “She’s not afraid to hit or get hit, which is funny because she’s not used to contact, coming as a crossover athlete.”

There’s still some uncertainty in her future – she will train with the national team this week while hoping for a chance to play in the Aug. 24-25 National Cup in Austin, Texas – but Hudson is optimistic about her future in rugby.

“I’m unique,” she said. “Nobody else is crossing over like this with no experience. It’s a great chance for me, and I think I’ll make the most of it.”

Her national coach feels that she can be a huge asset for the U.S. team.

“She’s bought in, changed her training around and really impressed us,” said Suggitt. “She has a great opportunity to play with us.”


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