Wheeler, Henrich Receive Awards At Gala Event

Emily Henrich and Harley Wheeler officially received their respect College Player Of The Year Awards at a huge event at the Washington Athletic Club this past weekend in Seattle.

Henrich, a freshman at Dartmouth College, received the MA Sorensen Award for the top women’s play. Sorensen, for whom the award is named, as again on hand to present the award personally, and noted that she has known Henrich since she was a child—she is friends with her parents (Lisa and Chris), who both played rugby at Dartmouth. 

Sorensen was glowing in her praise of Henrich as a person, as a student, and as a competitor, but added that perhaps the center should try the front row (Sorensen’s position when she helped win the 1991 Women’s Rugby World Cup) if she wanted to really get in the action.

Sorensen also told the story of seeing that Henrich was playing soccer with the Scion 7s team and previous Sorensen Award-winner Ilona Maher. Sorensen sent a note to Maher about that, and Maher replied “MA, this Emily, she’s going to win that trophy.”

The Scholz Award, named for 1920 and 1924 Olympic gold medal-winner Rudy Scholz, was presented by Rudy’s youngest son, Dave, and two of his children. Rudy Scholz’s granddaughter, Bonny Puleo, spoke. She remembers a humble, intense Rudy who spoke little of his war heroism or his two Olympic triumphs.

“Only now as an adult, now that he’s gone, do I recognize what colorful and vibrant life experiences all of those things represented,” she said.

Wheeler and Henrich were both effusive in their gratitude to the Washington Athletic Club, and the rugby community as a whole. 

“I never dreamed something like this would happen,” said Wheeler. “To have members of my family with me to support me, that means everything. I was expecting this event to be just a few select people, but, they’ve got the whole nine yards and it’s very special.”?

The keynote speaker for the evening was former USA 7s captain and current Seattle Seawolves captain Shalom Suniula, who, fortunately, didn’t have to a play a game until the next day. Suniula spoke of the journey and the effort it takes to take that journey as an elite athlete. And he dropped a few jokes along the way, giving those in attendance a rousing tale of his attempt to tackler Alesana Tuilagi during a test match in 2015.

“Emily and Harley, many congratulations,” he said, concluding his story. “My advice to you, along your journey, always keep your eyes open!”

Since the Sorensen and Scholz Awards were created by the Washington Athletic Club along with the help of FloRugby Senior Editor Alex Goff, eight individuals have received the awards. 

Of those eight, six have already played for the USA in either 15s or sevens, with Conor McNerney currently in training to become a Navy SEAL, and Wheeler having been selected for the Collegiate All Americans and USA Falcons, and many expecting him to get a full cap soon.

The eight players: Hope Rogers, Ilona Maher, McKenzie Hawkins, Emily Henrich, Dylan Audsley, Bryce Campbell, Conor McNerney, and Harley Wheeler have come from eight different institutions.

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