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Eagle River's Alev Kelter named to Olympic rugby team

  • Author: Beth Bragg
    | Sports
  • Updated: July 18, 2016
  • Published July 18, 2016

Hockey and soccer took Eagle River's Alev Kelter to college. Rugby is taking her to the Olympics.

Described by USA Rugby as an "athletic, multi-sport stud," Kelter was officially named to the U.S. women's rugby sevens team Monday, the fourth athlete with Alaska ties headed to Brazil.

She's one of 12 players who will play for Team USA when the sport makes its debut at the Summer Olympics next month.

"Couldn't be more proud of this awesome team!!!" Kelter tweeted Monday morning. "Counting down the days …"

Kelter, 25, was an obvious choice. Since joining the national team in 2014, with no prior rugby experience, she has become a mainstay for the Americans.

In 13 international tournaments, she has become the third-highest scorer in program history, according to USA Rugby.

"Alev has really come a long way in rugby in the short amount of time she has been playing the game," U.S. Coach Richie Walker said in a press release from USA Rugby.

Kelter will make her Olympic debut Aug. 6. The United States will play two matches that day — an 8 a.m. ADT game against Fiji and a 1 p.m. ADT game against Colombia.

If you plan to watch, don't tune in late. Sevens rugby games are fast-paced, physical — and brief. They consist of two seven-minute halves separated by a one-minute halftime.

Men's rugby returns to the Summer Olympics this year after an absence of nearly a century. It was last part of the Games in 1924, when the U.S. men's team won its second straight gold model.

Women's rugby is coming to the Olympics for the first time, just in time for Kelter to be part of it.

A fiery 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, Kelter became an impact player as soon as she put on a U.S. jersey. In 63 international matches over two seasons, she has scored 188 points (23 tries, 35 conversions and one penalty goal) to rank third in all-time scoring for the young team. She's two points behind teammate Lauren Doyle and well behind team leader Victoria Folayan, who has scored 320 career points.

Kelter, a 2008 Chugiak High graduate, played soccer, flag football and boys hockey for the Mustangs. She went on to become a Division I athlete in two sports — soccer and hockey — at the University of Wisconsin.

At the 2009 IIHF World Women's U18 Championship, Kelter was the captain of America's gold-medal hockey team.

After a failed attempt to make the 2014 Winter Olympics hockey team, Kelter accepted an invitation to try out for the national rugby team and earned a spot on the team. She moved to Chula Vista, California, and joined a player pool of about 25 training at the Olympic Training Center there.

Kelter and her teammates will leave Chula Vista on July 26 for a brief training camp in Florida. They head to Brazil on July 29 and are scheduled to play their first two games the day after the Aug. 5 opening ceremonies.

Kelter is one of two Eagle River athletes headed to Brazil. Corey Cogdell-Unrein, a 2008 bronze medalist in trapshooting, will make her third Olympic appearance.

Two other athletes with Alaska ties also earned spots on Olympic teams — three-time riflery medalist Matt Emmons, who graduated from UAF after a stellar career with the Fairbanks school, and 2012 bronze-medal winning long jumper Janay DeLoach, who graduated from Eielson High School in Fairbanks.

Beth Bragg is sports editor of Alaska Dispatch News. Contact her at bbragg@alaskadispatch.com.

Alev Kelter, photographed in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, Jun. 25, 2016. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

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