Arielle Gantt's first love was football. And during her freshman, sophomore and junior years at Einstein High School she played center and nose guard in the Titans junior varsity program.
But in the spring of 2008, Gantt was introduced to a new outlet: Rugby with the Maryland Exiles club.
“I didn't know anything about it,” she said during a phone interview last week. “All I know I was in the weight room one day lifting for football and was literally dragged to practice by [former Einstein line coach] Dan Soso. He thought it would be a great idea for me and eventually, I found out it was.”
So, for the past six years, the 2010 Einstein graduate has found her athletic home in rugby.
Gantt's initial reluctance to try rugby was because she didn't want to play with girls. And, at first, she figured the sport would be something to do during the football offseason. Football became the offseason sport.
“I wasn't interested in women's sports,” she said. “I like contact, I like being rough and hitting with the guys. I didn't think women's rugby could be a physical sport. I was always the girl who played with the boys.”
That quickly changed when Gantt found out women's rugby was just as physical as football and she was one of the stronger girls.
“I realized I had an insane amount of power,” she said. “Playing with guys paid off because they are stronger so I had to rely on my technique more than strength.”
Gantt has risen through the rugby ranks. The 5-foot-8 forward learned the sport with the Exiles and still plays on their women's team (and practices with the men). Gantt has also participated on several regional all-star teams and played at Montgomery College and the University of Maryland, College Park. She transferred to play at West Chester University, one of the better Division I women's rugby programs in the country, last year and is set to be a junior there this fall. West Chester is one of nine official varsity teams in the United States. The majority of collegiate women's rugby teams are club-type programs.
In May, she helped the Golden Rams reach the national semifinals while setting school records for the most trys (scores) in a match (five) and trys in a season (21).
Gantt, a health and physical education major, met her current college coach, Tony DeRemer, while playing for the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union Under-19 team that won a national title in 2010. They have kept in contact through the years and that, Gantt said, helped her decide to transfer to West Chester.
“I told her she was always welcome and left the door open for her,” DeRemer said. “Arielle finally called me up last year and took me up on my offer and we are glad to have her.
Gantt, who has participated on USA Rugby's Collegiate All-America team, said her dream is to play for the national team.
“She's a real good player and a real hard worker,” DeRemer said. “... She certainly has the capability to reach that level.”