To say Cassandra Jackson had a “smashing” good time during her four years with the Minnesota State University Moorhead women's rugby team would be a massive understatement.
The Fort Frances native helped lead the Hummerz to a fourth-place finish nationally in 2018 and followed that up this season with a bronze-medal finish.
Jackson triumphed with a 64-7 win over Lee University at the National Small College Rugby Organization's women's 15's national championship back in early December.
“Last year was a lot different than this year,” Jackson noted, who served as the Hummerz's field captain.
"We had some different leadership, I think last year we had a lot less experience going into it. So it was our first shot at nationals and a lot of people kinda got in their heads and didn't play to the best of their abilities.
“But it was a very different atmosphere this year going into it,” she stressed.
“We had more experience, most of us had been there last year. We all kept a very level head and we were really just there to play our best game.”
The Central Regional championship was hosted by Ohio Wesleyan University. MSU Moorhead was looking to return to the National Championships after a fourth-place finish last year, where the Hummerz dominated their game in defeating Denison University (Ohio Valley) handily by a score of 104-0.
In the other match-up Ithaca (Upstate New York No. 2) advanced with a 34-0 win over Gannon (Allegheny). MSU Moorhead comfortably defeated Ithaca College 82-0 the following day to earn a berth into the Final Four.
The Hummerz faced a stiff challenge in their semifinal game at the Final Four and wound up falling by a 57-14 count to the defending national champion Wayne State College, which dropped them into the Bronze-Medal match.
“I love to see the way this sport empowers women,” Jackson enthused.
"We're told all the time be gentle, be ladylike, but to step into a sport where you get to hit people and it's full contact, it's so different.
“For the girls coming into this sport, you see them grow and they become so strong and it's just amazing to see,” she added.
The physicality of rugby is something Jackson said helped draw her to the sport and she has enjoyed her years playing it and growing as a person and as an athlete.
“I did karate when I was young and I came here and I was just looking [for something] to get into and kind of keep me in shape and I found out that MSUM had a rugby team and I thought 'You know what? Let's give it a try',” she recalled.
“Learning a new sport at this age, you feel absolutely ridiculous,” she chuckled.
“So most of the sports we learned growing up were played in the gym class, but rugby is a very complicated sport with lots of rules. So it's just learning all of those and just learning the concept of passing backwards instead of passing forwards is so different from most sports.”
Jackson graduated from MSUM last month and said her plans moving forward include moving back to Fort Frances and pursuing a career as a police officer.
Not only did she end her rugby career on a high note with a bronze medal at the nationals, she also took home the NSCRO's Heart and Soul Award which she said was a humbling experience.
“I honestly wasn't expecting to get the Heart and Soul Award but it's so humbling,” she enthused.
“It's just an incredible feeling knowing how much I put into this sport and that it does get recognized at the end of the day.”
Jackson also said she'll miss the camaraderie she had with her Hummerz teammates and that all of her academic and athletic experience the last few years will only benefit her in life moving forward.