San Diego, CA (December 20, 2017) – With paternal South African roots, there is no doubt that the sport of rugby runs in Justin Petersen’s blood. Justin’s youth is marked with memories of waking up early to watch a test match with his father, attending the U.S.A. Rugby Sevens Tournament at Petco Park in San Diego, and watching South Africa win the World Cup in 2007.
Initially shy to the thought of playing rugby, Justin has developed into one of the most talented young ruggers in his age group. In addition to his rugby prowess, his academic and extracurricular excellence categorizes him as the perfect recipient of the 2017 Terry O’Reilly Memorial Scholarship.
Petersen’s rugby career began in 2009 with the Costal Dragons Rugby Club. The flyhalf’s skillset really blossomed during his high school career with La Costa Canyon High School, where he earned multiple representative honors, including being named to the Southern California Junior Griffins in 2015, Southern California Varsity Griffins in 2016, Eagle Impact Rugby Academy Southern California Side in 2016, Eagle Impact Rugby Academy U16 National Side in 2015, Eagle Impact U17 National Side in 2016, and the U.S.A. Rugby High School All-American U18 European Championship Team. Petersen’s play also landed him spots at the U.S.A. Rugby High School All-American Winter Camp in 2015 and 2016, and a trip to the Sharks Academy in Durban, South Africa in 2017. He helped lead La Costa Canyon to an undefeated season and the Southern California Varsity Red Division Championship title in 2016 and a Southern California Varsity Red Division runner-up position in 2017.
Justin’s rugby IQ is highly touted from his coaches and teammates. When he is not playing, you can still find him on the pitch as a Tier 1 referee. He has also served as a volunteer coach for three consecutive seasons. He is passionate about promoting the sport of rugby throughout the nation with hopes that one day the U.S.A. will become a top tier rugby nation.
Salty Thompson, U.S.A. Rugby High School All-Americans Head Coach, described Justin’s devotion to rugby as follows: “Rugby and especially Justin’s position demand excellent technical and tactical ability, but also important communication, leadership, and management skills. It’s a tall order for a young athlete to take on that amount of responsibility and perform under pressure, but Justin continues to grow and stretch his limits. Sports can build character or illustrate a lack of it. In Justin’s case, he consistently shows good character. His core values, work ethic, and teamwork skills are a great foundation for life.”
Petersen graduated from La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California in the spring of 2017 with a 3.85 unweighted GPA and high honors. He was a recipient of the Advance Placement Scholar with Distinction Award, which is given to students who receive high marks of 3.5 on all AP exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams. Justin was also a member of the La Costa Canyon High School Water Polo Team from 2013-2016. He was a three-year member for the La Costa Canyon High School Interact Club, where he volunteered for various local organizations, including feeding the homeless with Father Joe’s Village.
His dedication to succeed off the pitch has led him to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara with his sights set on attending medical school after the completion of his bachelor’s degree. Peterson is a member of the UCSB Men’s Rugby team and aspires to represent the U.S.A. as an Eagle one day.
“Justin is super committed to the sport and the UCSB Rugby Program. Even as a freshman, he spends a lot of time helping the new players. While he has been injured a bit this fall, he continues to come to practice every day to be a part of the team,” said Tim Lewis, UCSB Men’s Rugby Head Coach.
While a great academic and athletic future await Justin, he says, “No matter where life takes me in these upcoming years, three things are certain for me: taxes, death, and an undying love for rugby.”Congratulations, Justin, on being selected as the 2017 Terry O’Reilly Memorial Scholarship recipient.