What's a Gee Gee? A National Champion

Many Ottawa locals recognize the “Gee-Gee” as the University of Ottawa’s official mascot, though few actually know what it is. Last week, uOttawa’s women’s rugby team showed the city, once and for all, exactly what a Gee-Gee is: the first race horse out of the gate, and a national champion.

Photo credit: University of Ottawa

The University of Ottawa’s women’s rugby team rucked, mauled and tackled their way to victory earlier this month at the 2017 U SPORT Women’s Rugby National Championship in Lethbridge, Alberta. After facing fierce competition throughout the week, the Gee-Gees returned to Ottawa with the gold – and the battle wounds to prove their valor.  

Not only does this championship mark the Gee-Gees’ first-ever national win in the program’s history, but it is the first time in a 20-year history that a Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) team has held the national champion title. Université Laval – the only other RSEQ team competing at the U SPORT Nationals – took on the Gee-Gees in an all-RSEQ final on Sunday, November 5th. The Gee-Gees beat Laval 20-10, after conquering Acadia University 65-5 in the quarter-finals and defeating the University of Calgary in a 32-15 overtime victory during the semi-finals.

“I have an incredible group of leaders on this team,” said the team’s head coach, Jen Boyd. “The leaders did their jobs and the young ones followed. It’s tremendous for these women. They’ve set a new standard for rugby at the University of Ottawa over the last five years.”

While this may be the team’s first year winning gold, the Gee-Gees have had their fair share of experience competing for the national championship. For the past three years straight, the women’s rugby team has placed in the Top Four at nationals – fourth in 2014, third in 2015 and second in last year’s 2016-17 season. It was only a matter of time before their incredible skill, power and determination would inevitably land them in the top spot.

Despite their hours of practice and preparation, the Gee-Gees faced an uphill battle on their road to triumph. Only two days after arriving in Lethbridge, the ground was already covered in snow and the temperature dropped to -20 degrees Celsius with the wind chill. “Thankfully, we were prepared and brought warm clothing with us,” said Paulina Karwowski, one of the team’s flankers. “But even the simplest skills like running, catching and passing were so much more difficult because our hands and legs were almost numb.”

Teams competing at last year’s national championship in Victoria, BC, including the Gee-Gees, experienced less-than-ideal weather conditions, but nothing compared to the frosty winter weather that was in store for the players in Alberta. Nonetheless, the Gee-Gees shone in absence of the sun and fought through the cold to victory.

Scorers of the final game included Dria Bennett and Danielle Erdelyi, as well as Breanna Phillips who also won “Player of the Game.”

“It’s been a tremendous climb to the top and we finally made it,” said Boyd. “I’m just so tremendously proud of the girls and the support that we’ve got from the university – it’s a real dream come true."

 

For more information about the University of Ottawa’s women’s rugby team, visit the Gee-Gees’ website.