Mixing it Up

Sept. 16, 2004

by C.J. Bowles

Blame Canada.

Actually, blame the Canadian National soccer team. They're the ones responsible for borrowing one of the Huskies' top women's soccer players for tournaments, causing her to appear in only 35 of the Huskies 62 games over three seasons entering 2004.

Senior Clare Rustad, though -- a native of Saltspring Island, B.C. -- has no regrets about splitting her time the past three years, and says her teammates have made it easy.

'They were all so nice,' she says. 'They all welcomed me back and tried to help me get back into it and just readjust.'

Rustad does, however, realize just how much she has missed.

'This is my second preseason and it's my senior year,' she says. 'I had a preseason freshman year and then I missed it for two years because I was away. That hurts. I didn't know any of the new players when I got back; I didn't spend much time with the girls that are new. It's hard to just jump back into a team, especially when they've been training for two weeks and they have a feel for each other and they've all been working very hard.'

Born in North Vancouver, B.C., Rustad was an extraordinary athlete by the time she entered Gulf Islands Secondary School. A three-sport star in basketball, track, and soccer, Rustad was named the Junior Girls Athlete of the Year in 1999. Rustad could have won the award based on dedication alone -- her milestone 16th birthday was celebrated not with friends, but at a soccer camp.

Rustad's dedication, though, has earned the 5-foot-10 midfielder/defender 24 appearances with the full Canadian National team, playing in the 1999 Pan American Games and winning a silver medal at the Under-19 World Championships. Most recently, Rustad was in contention to earn a spot on the team that would have competed at the Olympics in Athens, Greece, had the Canadians qualified for the games.

Recruited out of secondary school by a variety of schools across both the U.S. and Canada, Rustad decided on Washington for a variety of reasons.

'It's close-ish to home for me, so my parents can come watch the games. Plus, it's on the West Coast, and it's an amazing school,' she says. 'It doesn't get much better.'

Rustad also may have been swayed by the style of soccer played in the States, versus that favored by our northern neighbors.

'They're very different,' Rustad explains. 'In Canada, the National team tends to play very direct -- they don't like to pass it around a lot. It's, `Get the ball forward and go from there.' America plays a more attractive game. They play the ball around and try to look up the field. I prefer to play the ball around more.'

There's no doubt that Rustad has proven herself on the field, but in the classroom she is even more of an all-star. After earning a perfect 4.0 grade-point average in high school, she boasts a 3.98 at Washington, and is studying to become a doctor.

'Academics is something that I've always focused on,' she says. 'I work really hard.'

It's also probably pertinent to note that Rustad completed level eight in piano with the Royal Conservatory of Music, while playing trombone in Gulf Islands' jazz band.

Now, with one more year at Washington, Rustad is jazzed about the Huskies' chances in 2004.

'We are going to make the (NCAA) tournament; we're going to do well,' she says. 'We want to go far.'

When it comes time for Rustad to hang up her spikes, there's no question that she will continue to challenge herself, both in the classroom and on the field.

'I'm applying to medical school to enter next fall,' she says. 'I don't know how it'll go, but the plan is to start next fall and keep playing soccer if I can.'

School and soccer, books and balls -- the combination has worked well for Rustad so far; there's no reason to mix it up.

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