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Kathryn Treder of Anchorage, a member of the USA Rugby women’s 15s team, is the subject of a short documentary, «The Kathryn Treder Story.» (Photo by Travis Prior / USA Rugby)
About two minutes into a short documentary called “The Kathryn Treder Story” and again less than a minute before the end, there are scenes of a cool, crazy rugby play called the lineout lift.
It’s an inbounds play during which the hooker lofts the ball high in the air to a player maybe 10 yards away who gets lifted into the air by two teammates while the ball is sailing toward them.
For 25-year-old Kathryn Treder of Anchorage, the ability to accurately lob the ball to a target she can’t see is how she wound up on USA Rugby’s national team for women’s 15s.
“There’s a very specific skill that I was pretty good at that caught their eye,” Treder said. “When the ball goes out of bounds, the hooker throws the ball in the lineout kind of through this tunnel of players … and people lift people up in the air and try to catch it.
“It’s a really challenging (throw), and it was my ticket in.”
A 2014 West High graduate, Treder earned a spot on the national team in 2019 and made her international playing debut in November 2019.
The pandemic shut things down not long after that. Competition is expected to resume with some test matches in November, with the next Rugby World Cup tournament scheduled for 2022 in New Zealand.
During the break from competition, Treder became the subject of a 17-minute documentary that will premiere Monday at 9 a.m. ADT on USA Rugby’s Facebook page. It was directed by Aalina Tabani of USA Rugby and filmed and edited by Michael Crocker of Crocker Video. It has been submitted to a number of upcoming film festivals, Tabani said.
Alaska Native and Eagle Kathryn Treder struggles with guilt. Her story of resilience and determination, premieres tomorrow at 1p ET on Facebook. Brought to you by Medallia.
The film focuses on Treder’s Native heritage — she is Inupiaq and Aleut — and her struggle between staying home with her large family or living in the Lower 48 to pursue her rugby career.
She’s the second-oldest of 10 children, and the oldest three — Dajan, Kathryn and Victoria, all girls — grew up helping their working mother take care of the younger ones.
The three sisters attended West High and all competed in wrestling. There weren’t many other girls on the team, so the Treder sisters were practice partners and sometimes even competed against each other.
After wrestling practice, they’d go home and grapple with homework and housework. They’d diaper and bathe the youngest ones, help with meals, and do laundry and other chores.
Treder had a chance to wrestle at a small college but instead chose to go to Stanford University, where she majored in political science and comparative studies in race and ethnicity. She graduated in four years.
While in college she joined Stanford’s rugby club and fell in love with the sport. As a hooker, she made it her mission to become skilled at throwing the ball for the lineout lift.
“It was a painful process of learning,” Treder said. “I feel like it’s a really important skill to have because if you don’t do it right it’s basically a turnover. I wanted to be good so bad that every day I would go to a basketball court and grab a rugby ball and (throw it) from different distances and hit the square on the backboard. I’d do it 50 times a day.”
A coach would take video and analyze it with her.
After graduating from Stanford, Treder moved to Boston for a research job with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s political science department.
She still lives there but left MIT to do data analysis for Ludis Analytics, a job that allows her to spend weeks at a time at USA Rugby training sessions.
The documentary is an offshoot of a USA Rugby video about team diversity, Treder said.
“(It had) a bunch of people of color talk about what rugby means to them, and they were really interested in the way I answered the questions,” she said. ”They approached me in January about the possibility of a longer film.”
Crocker and Tabani visited Alaska with Treder to shoot part of the film, which includes footage ranging from Treder atop a peak in the Chugach Mountains to Treder running drills with young players at the West High football field.
The film includes scenes with her grandmother, Geneva Bright, who has kept the family connected to its heritage, Treder said.
“Grandma was an Indian education teacher, and she made sure we knew who we were and where we came from,” Treder said. “She taught us traditional arts like drum-making and beading. I grew up doing a ton of clamming and fishing and berry-picking.”
Treder, whose siblings range in age from 26 to 9, was back in Anchorage last week for Victoria’s graduation from the UAA nursing program. Camping and berry-picking were also on the agenda.
While her short-term goal is to make the U.S. roster for next year’s World Cup tournament in New Zealand, Treder’s long-term goal is to return to Anchorage and do race equity work, which she said is her true passion.
She leads a book club for the USA Rugby women’s 15 teams, and recent reads include “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum and “Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi.
“We seek out deep topics,” Treder said. “For a lot of people, it might be the only time they talk about race and learn about it.”
Treder said she’s shocked to be the subject of a documentary. Watching it explore her ongoing tug-of-war between duty to family and pursuit of sport made her cry a few times, she said.
“It’s really hard,” she said. “They are the most important people to me, and all of a sudden I went away to college and was never around them the way I would want to be. They are important people in my day-to-day life and it really pains me to not be around them anymore.
“The way I reconcile it is that I really hope what I’m doing, what I’m trying to accomplish, will in some way inspire them. Starting with me going to college. It’s wanting to be a good role model for them and showing them what’s possible in the future.”
Beth Bragg is the sports editor for Anchorage Daily News. Contact her at bbragg@adn.com.

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