Emily Gazella is living her dream. Gazella, who has played rugby for the past five years, made the U-23 Midwest Thunderbirds rugby team. She will travel to Wales beginning August 13 to compete in her favorite sport internationally. Only eight athletes out of the 80 who tried out were chosen to be a part of this prestigious team.
The trip to Wales will last 10 days, in which the team will play three games. While overseas, the team will see the sights of London, visit Stonehenge, and stay with host families to be immersed in the culture.
Gazella was selected to try out while competing at a tournament in Davenport, Iowa with the U-23 Wisconsin Selects Team. A Midwest Thunderbird coach asked her to fill out a form, and later sent an email inviting Gazella back to Davenport for the tryout.
The two-day tryout included fitness testing, position-specific drills, scrimmages, and coaches’ critiques. Gazella said, “I was just shocked and honored to be invited to Davenport because there are so many talented athletes in the game of rugby. I was humbled.”
Gazella plays the position of outside center, a “skinny” as she is called on her team. Her position’s main purposes are running and handling the ball.
Excitement is a word to characterize Gazella’s feelings about this trip. She said, “I honestly never thought that I would travel that far, so it seems kind of surreal and nerve-wracking. I cannot wait to tour the place that I have only been able to hear about and see on television.”
Even though she has accomplished the feat of making the team, Gazella is completely responsible for the finances of the trip. She has to earn $2,000 by the end of July. She plans to do this through holding a rummage sale during Pulaski Polka Days, community service, and donations. If you would like to make a donation to her travel fund, please send it to 4698 Redwood Dr., Pulaski, WI 54162.
Gazella is a 2008 graduate of Pulaski High School and a 2012 graduate of UW-Eau Claire where she earned degrees in Psychology and Kinesiology. She currently resides in Pulaski. She is the daughter of Barbara (La Count) Gazella and Richard Gazella.