USA Rugby Eagles Cade (CJ) Hildreth and Todd Clever were selected as the 2011 International Athletes of the Year by InternationalAthlete.com. International Athlete is an organization that was created to recognize elite global achievement. Recognizing that sport is becoming international in nature, we salute athletes that travel and compete throughout the world. These athletes are sharing cultures, breakdown down international boundaries, and building global communities of athletic knowledge and talent.
Cade (CJ) Hildreth began a rugby career in university, then pursued skateboarding to develop her skills as a free-style boarder. She became a sponsored skateboarder and launched an independent biotechnology business during that time. In 2006, CJ began playing rugby for the club team NOVA (Northern Virginia) and was selected for the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union (MARFU) territorial teams for both 7s and 15s.
After being recognized as a stand-out player on these sides, CJ was selected for the USA 7s National Rugby Team in 2009, and has since represented the National Team at international venues including Las Vegas IRB 7s and Hong Kong IRB 7s. In addition, CJ was a key player in NOVA’s back-to-back 7s Club National Championships in 2009 and 2010 and the Mid-Atlantic Team’s Territorial National Championship in 2010, a tournament in which she was a top try-scorer for the Mid-Atlantic.
CJ is known for her strength, size and explosiveness, as well as technical skills that include her skill of off-loading to players in contact and running precision strike lines. However, CJ Hildreth’s most unusual attribute is her breadth of international experience. In 2011 alone, CJ represented alongside national players for all three of the medal-winning rugby nations from the most recent Women’s 7s Rugby World Cup — Australia, New Zealand, and the USA, respectively.
In 2001 alone, CJ Hildreth competed in international rugby tournaments within the USA, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Indonesia!
During the past year, CJ Hildreth choose to be based out of Christchurch, New Zealand and noted that her first day in NZ was extremely memorable, as it was the day of the deadly Feb 22 Christchurch earthquake that killed 181 people and trapped more than 300. While residing in NZ, CJ played with the Sydenham Women’s Rugby Club, participating in the club’s domination of the Canterbury 15s Grand Final in July 2011 and the Canterbury 7s Series in October 2011.
CJ also trained in Christchurch, NZ, with an 7s international select side, called KUSA Superclub. KUSA is an “International Women’s 7s Team, with a core of players drawn from the Canterbury region and additional players selected from around the world based on caliber of individual skill or contribution.” The team boasts international superstars including Amiria Rule, Lavinia Gould, and Kendra Cocksedge, among many others. The team competes in international competitions worldwide, ranging from Oceania to Europe.
In 2011, CJ competed with KUSA in tournaments that included Bryon Bay 7s in Australia, Gold Coast International 7s in Australia, and Roma International 7’s in Rome, Italy. In Rome, KUSA dominated competing nations from around the globe to end up loosing to New Zealand counter-parts, the Aoteaora Maori, by a single conversion kick in the final, with a score of 10-12.
CJ is also a member of an Australian Invitational Team sponsored by the Samuri brand, which travels under the tour name of the “Bush Turkeyz.” This team hosts a range of national-side stars from around the country of Australia, including Kristy Giteau, Sharni Williams, and Rebecca Tavo, among others. CJ represented with this team in international competitions that included Darwin’s Hottest 7s in January 2011 and Bali International 7s in September 2011.
In 2011, CJ’s rugby schedule involved:
- January 22-23rd: Darwin Hottest 7s in Darwin, Australia (Australian Select Side, traveling as “Samuri / Bush Turkeyz”)
- February: Entered New Zealand – Rugby delayed by Feb 22, 2011 earthquake
- March: Hong Kong IRB 7s in Hong Kong (USA National Team)
- March-July: Canterbury 15’s Season in Christchurch, New Zealand (5 months of games with Sydenham Rugby Club)
- June 4-5th: Rome International 7s, in Rome, Italy (KUSA Superclub)
- July 16th: Grand Final for Canterbury Rugby 15’s (Sydenham Rugby Club)
- August 1-31st: Mid-Atlantic 7s Championships in Virginia (NOVA), 7s Club Nationals in California (NOVA), 7s Inter-Territorial Championships in California (MARFU), USA National Camp
- September 24-25th: Bali International 7s, in Bali, Indonesia (Australian Select Side, traveling as “Samuri / Bush Turkeyz”)
- October: 7s Tournament Series in Christchurch, New Zealand (Sydenham Rugby Club)
- October 29th: 7s Grand Final in Christchurch, New Zealand (Sydenham Rugby Club)
- November 19-20th: Gold Coast International 7s in Queensland, Australia (KUSA Superclub)
- October – December: Touch Rugby Competition in Christchurch, New Zealand (KUSA Touch)
In summary, CJ Hildreth has the most extensive international experience of any the female rugby player in the world during the past year and was the only player to represent alongside national-side players for all three of the world’s dominant rugby nations – NZ, Australia and the USA. For these reasons, it is clear to see why CJ Hildreth is our choice for “Female International Athlete of the Year.”
Because the single largest sporting event of 2011 was the Rugby World Cup, which brought together athletes from around the globe to compete in cities inNew Zealand throughout the months of September and October 2011, International Athlete has chosen to honor rugby players as both our featured “Male and Female Athletes of the Year.”
With that in mind, the best choice for a male athlete to be featured is USA’s Eagles current captain, Todd “Jackhammer” Clever. Todd Stranger Clever was born on 16 January 1983 in Palm Springs, California. He has turned to rugby during his time at the Santa Teresa high school, and in the year 2000 he was named to the USA U19 team. In college, he played for University of Nevada and while there he was a 3-time College All-American.
Measuring 6 ft 4 in and weighing 213 lb, he is an American Rugby Union player, holding the position of flanker, except for the time while he played for the USA Sevens, where he played as a prop.
Todd’s current team is Suntory of Japan which he has joined in June 2010. He has also played for the South African Lions during the 2009 Super 14, being the first American ever to play in the Super 14 and also is the first American to score the first try in Super 14. Before playing for the Lions he played in the National Provincial Championship, in New Zealand for North Harbour.
His international career started at the age of 20, during a game against Argentina in August 2003. Clever was part of the USA team for the World Cup in 2007.
For some time now, Todd Clever has been chosen captain and became the face of the national rugby team, the Eagles. He led his team to victory in the 2009 game against Uruguay and scored two tries. Through that win, the Eagles went to the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Honors that have been awarded to him throughout his career to date:
- U-19 National Team Member (2000–2002)
- 3-time College All-American (2002–2004)
- USA Eagles (7s)
- USA Eagles (XVs)
- Captain USA Eagles (XVs)
- First American to play in the Super 14
- First American to score a try in the Super 14
- 2006 ARN Player of the Year
- 2008 World Rugby Shop’s USA Rugby Men’s Player of the Year
- 2008 USA Rugby Men’s Player of the Year
- 2009 RUGBYMag.com Player of the Year
- 2009 RUGBYMag.com Overseas Performer of the Year
- North American Rugby Player of the Decade 2000-2009
- RuggaMatrix USA Player of the Decade 2000-2009
Overall, Todd Clever is the definition of a global competitor, an international celebrity, and an ideal model of an “international athlete.” Athletes everywhere would do well to hold him in admiration.