Former Summit star Cassidy Bargell up for women’s rugby ‘Heisman’ at Harvard

Antonio Olivero
Summit Daily
Summit High School Tigers rugby alum and Harvard star Cassidy Bargell possesses the ball during the Ivy League Championship versus Dartmouth on Oct. 26, 2019.
Courtesy Winslow Townson

DILLON — The past few months have been a mixed bag of positive and not-so-positive for Cassidy Bargell, one of the greatest players in Summit High School’s rugby history. But the fierce competitor is trying to make the best of it during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sophomore Harvard Crimson scrumhalf learned a couple of weeks back that she is one of just a few finalists for the Sorensen Award, the women’s college rugby equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

For Bargell, it was a silver-lining she said surprised her after she returned to her family’s home in Wildernest on March 15 after Harvard announced the cancellation of on-campus classes due to the novel coronavirus. In turn, the pandemic also meant the cancellation of the spring rugby sevens season for the proud Crimson program that was coming off a rugby 15s national championship on home soil in the fall when they avenged an early-season loss to the U.S. Military Academy.

Bargell is joined as a finalist for the Sorensen Award — which has an undetermined announcement date for the winner — by her Crimson teammate Brogan Mior and other elite young rugby stars she’s played with and against in the past. That includes one of her good friends, Spiff Sedrick of Life University.

“Knowing how good they all are makes it an even bigger honor,” Bargell said. “And the fact that we had me and Brogan both nominated, it spoke about how much our (Harvard) team grew this year. We both play more decision-making positions. They are, like, less of the flashy positions. We might not score as much, and I think it highlights Harvard’s ability to make decisions this year and be strategic.”

And it was Sedrick who Bargell played with in her final rugby action before the COVID-19 shutdown, in late February and early March when their side — the U.S. Falcons, a national development team — won the esteemed Los Angeles Invitational, an open competition featuring some of the best women’s rugby players in the world.

When Bargell returned from California to begin training with the Crimson in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard was one of the first college athletics departments to announce spring cancellations due to the pandemic.

The cancellation of the spring season meant a few things. In terms of the Sorsensen Award, it meant nominations would include only accomplishments from the fall rugby 15s season, in turn meaning nominations were bumped up as the spring sevens season couldn’t be factored in.

It also meant Bargell would finish her sophomore year of school, with a focus on studying biology, remotely at home in Summit County. As for athletics, it meant she, as a member of the Harvard team’s leadership group, would have to get creative to keep the Crimson team in tip-top athletic and psychological shape with an eye on returning to the pitch next fall.

As of now, as Bargell completes her spring semester final assignments and exams, the star scrumhalf said the university hasn’t said much about if and when student-athletes will be able to return and what sports will look like then.

Luckily, Bargell said, her rugby coaches at Harvard have made remote training possible. The team trains together on Zoom via what Bargell described as a “massive support system.” Bargell considers herself lucky to be able to conduct such things as captain-organized body-weight workouts a few times a week with her teammates while listening to music.

The team also does conditioning sets depending on what each individual athlete has at home. For Bargell, that means trail run loops and hill sprints on the Mesa Cortina trails near her home. And, the sophomore said, the team also conducts weekly Zoom meetings for an hour-and-a-half to look at 15s film to prep for next fall.

“The leadership group, we had meetings with coaches to decide the best thing, and we think the team works best when holding each other accountable,” Bargell said. “The goal is to not push anyone beyond what they are capable of doing, but we know we function best as students and athletes when exercising.”

Bargell said she’s also grateful for the assignments she and teammates receive each week from a Harvard sports psychology coach in Google Classroom.

Thinking ahead to next fall, though the Crimson are prepping as if the season will happen as normal, Bargell said she does understand a cancellation of the autumn 15s season could happen. In that case, she’s trying to put the situation into perspective by realizing she is lucky as a rugby player to have two seasons, something most other sports don’t enjoy.

“Especially studying biology, with professors in STEM, I know it’s not unrealistic of the possibility of another online semester,” Bargell said. “But we are also not worrying about it until we get there. The university may release something around July, so we have awhile. And because we have two rugby seasons, even if we go back to campus in 2021, we know we will be playing some sort of competitive rugby season and the seniors will have a chance for one last rugby season.”