Oct. 28, 2019

'Big Cat' and 'Little Cat' bring their best game to national championship

First-year law students count on each other as they tackle assignments in class or on the rugby pitch
Dinos rugby
Law students Catrina Thompson and Catherine Ohler are competing in the U Sports Championships David Moll

On the Dinos rugby pitch, they're known as Big Cat and Little Cat. In the Faculty of Law lecture theatre at the University of Calgary, they are Catherine Ohler (Big Cat) and Catrina Thompson (Little Cat). And both first-year law students bared their teeth at the U Sports National Championships in Ottawa.

While both women played for Burnaby Lake Rugby Club and had mutual friends in the rugby community, they did not meet until they came to training camp at UCalgary.

“I introduced myself at camp and said ‘Hey, I’m Cat, and I’m starting law school,’” says Thompson. Ohler had the exact same introduction.

The two have perfected the art of balancing law school and varsity athletics by staying in the same room while on the road so they can do homework and work on assignments together when they have downtime between games. Ohler uses breaks between classes, training sessions and practices throughout the day to study, and Thompson points out that it is important to focus on the priorities when her plate is full. Having supportive professors and classmates is also helpful.

“We do so much reading and sitting in class that going to practice is a great brain break after a full day of school and homework,” says Ohler.


Catherine Ohler (left) and Catrina Thompson are members of the Dinos rugby team

Thompson agrees, adding that when the team has an on-field practice or training session, it is great to be doing something different. “It is really nice when we can go from class, put on our cleats and just run around in the fresh air.”

After playing hockey while growing up, Thompson started playing rugby in high school, albeit for a different school since her school did not have a team. Despite being terrified of the aggressive nature of the sport at first, she immediately fell in love with it.

“I was going to try out for the hockey team in my undergrad at Carleton, but rugby tryouts were first. I went to the tryouts and made the team, so I played varsity rugby instead,” explains Thompson.

For Ohler, it was a friend’s sister who convinced her to try rugby for the first time in high school.

“I was playing all the high school sports, and rugby was in the spring season,” she says. “My friend’s sister convinced me to try out for rugby instead of field hockey, and it was so fun — like soccer but better! The game is complex and I liked it more than anything else I had ever done.”

Jumping in feet first to a sport they had never tried has given them the confidence to try new things in law school as well. With numerous career and networking events with practicing lawyers and other members of the legal community, both women have had to develop the extroverted sides of their personalities and to put themselves out there networking with potential employers.

Despite all of the practice they are getting at networking events, you can guarantee they did not play nice on the field with the national championship on the line.