Sometimes it's the big decisions that change lives such as the day Erin Overcash decided to give up track and field at the University of Colorado because she just didn't feel as connected to her teammates and her events as she once did.

Other times it's the small decisions, such as the day early in her sophomore year Overcash chose to stop by the CU recreation center hoping to find something competitive to sink her teeth into.

Within minutes of walking through the door, she found herself in an introductory meeting for women interested in joining the women's club rugby team. She had no idea those were the first moments of her Olympic dream.

"I immediately just knew that was the group of women that I needed to be around," Overcash said.

Overcash came to CU in 2009 from Goshen, Kentucky, not far from Louisville, where she earned two state championships in the high jump and finished second once. She grew up playing street hockey with the kids in her neighborhood, basketball, video games and just about anything else that offered her a chance to compete.

She decided in high school that she wanted to become a pilot. She decided the Navy was the best way to do it because they would pay her to do it, pay for her to attend college and she'd get to travel the world as well. She chose to attend CU because it offered the combination of a top-flight aerospace engineering program along with an ROTC program not to mention being recruited by the track and field program.


Even though things didn't work out for her with the track and field team, she still made the most of her opportunities at CU. She became a standout member of the rugby team and one of its leaders. The same can be said for her performance in the ROTC and Aerospace programs.

Along the way she caught the eye of coaches for the USA Women's Olympic Rugby team and earned an invitation to compete for one of 12 spots on the 2016 Olympic team.

The Navy allowed Overcash to delay the start of flight school giving her orders for the World Class Athlete Program, allowing her to train with the U.S. Rugby team every day in Chula Vista, California, just outside San Diego.

She has to meet performance goals along the way to continue to train with the team but doesn't anticipate that being a problem. After all, she is the classic high achiever with an Aerospace engineering degree, Navy flight school waiting in the wings, a full Ironman triathlon under her belt and the possibility of becoming an Olympian suddenly very real.

"I don't think I became one," Overcash said of being a high achiever. "I just think I always was one. I like a challenge in life and I never would have guessed that I would be a rugby player but that was like the next big challenge. I don't know, I like reaching further, as far as I can."

Col. J. Scott Walsh of the Marine Corps and a professor of Naval science at CU who oversees the ROTC program at CU said Overcash is among the most impressive young people he has been around.

"She's definitely a high achiever," Walsh said. "I had her in my leadership course and she was a good student. A smart young lady, hard worker and she had a lot going on with Rugby team and so on, but kept her grades high. And of course she had the battalion work going on — she was in a leadership position in our battalion also — so all of that demands on her, from the rugby to the battalion leadership, she still held a high grade point average in a very challenging major."

Overcash was the honor grad from her CU battalion of 125 strong this spring.

Overcash said her parents, Wendell and Joanne, gave her and her sister, Holly, every opportunity to compete and try to new experiences from a young age. She said all of it prepared her well for the no-nonsense brutality of rugby as well as the discipline of military life.

She has suffered bloody noses "too many to count" along with a sprained meniscus in her knee and sprained AC joint in her shoulder as she learned to thrive as a 5-foot-8, 155-pound fullback on the pitch. She played for the Glendale Raptors, a Denver-area team in the Women's Premier League, before leaving the state for her Naval commitments.

The next challenge for Overcash is actually earning one of those 12 spots on the final Olympic team in 2016. She works out and practices with her teammates for 10 to 12 hours a day. It's the rugby offseason now with competition resuming in the fall and running into next spring.

"I'm new here and there are probably 14 girls who have been training here full time for a year or more already," she said. "...All I know is I'm new and I just expect there to be a lot of work and an uphill battle to get anywhere."

Overcash said just a few years ago she wouldn't have believed she would have an opportunity to become an Olympian in 2016. Now, she's devoting everything she has to trying to make it happen.

"It's a lifestyle now," she said.