by John Arthur
Writer for and on behalf of the City of Glendale
As Glendale prepares for the 2018 launch of Major League Rugby, the town also honors its storied history of attracting talented players. Two veteran Glendale ruggers, Hannah Stolba and Carmen Farmer, announced at the final home match at Infinity Park in October that they would hang up their cleats at season’s end. Even in retirement, however, both of these exceptional players intend to remain involved with the sport and with Glendale.
Stolba was born in Montana, and grew up playing basketball, eventually being awarded a basketball scholarship to Minnesota State University, Mankato. She picked up rugby during the offseason on the advice of a friend, and took to the sport quickly, “I loved it. I fell in love with the game and the challenge and mostly the people. Rugby was much more free form and I enjoyed that.” Before finishing college, Stolba began playing for the Minnesota Valkyries, even touring with the club’s Under-23 team in New Zealand.
After finishing college Stolba moved to Minneapolis and continued playing with the Valkyries for another six years, moving to Colorado in 2011. Among her many accolades, Stolba played with the USA Women’s Rugby Team from 2012 through the 2014 World Cup. Following the 2014 season, she casually mentions that she “thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail” (the longest footpath in the world, the nearly 2,200 mile trail stretches from Maine to Georgia), before spending six months playing and coaching in New Zealand in 2016.
Stolba says she chose Colorado not just for the outdoor lifestyle the state is famous for, but also because of the programming and facilities at Infinity Park. She notes that she still intends to be involved with the game — playing touch rugby and coaching — but that retirement from club play is meant to allow more time for hobbies and hiking. Asked what message she had for Glendale, Stolba was quick to thank the city and its people for their support: “It’s very uncommon in the U.S. to get picked out of a crowd for playing rugby, but we live in this unique pocket . . . thank you, for supporting us the way that you do. It is greatly appreciated from our whole program.”
Carmen Farmer was born in Richmond, Virginia. She grew up in the state, attending college at Virginia Tech, where she played collegiate softball. After college she earned a law degree from the University of Maryland and practiced on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, not discovering rugby until some five years later. In an interesting twist of fate, the future Olympic rugby player discovered the sport after a conversation with an Australian while hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Upon her return from Tanzania, Farmer found the Severn River Women’s Rugby Club in Annapolis, Maryland, and walked onto a practice a week later. 2012, her first year playing rugby, the team took second in the National Championships. Two years later Farmer played in the World Cup in France. She notes that during this time she played her first match at Infinity Park, facing a South African team in 2013.
Farmer played at Severn River for three years at the Division 2 level before moving to San Diego, where she trained with the Seven’s National Team. Following the Rio Olympics, she took a job with a Land Trust in Colorado and began playing for Glendale. Asked about what drew her to Glendale, she notes the program’s “rich history and high level of play,” and, with a smile, “the facilities aren’t too bad either.”
Farmer doesn’t have firm plans for retirement, but intends to focus more time on work. Even if she’s not on the pitch, however, she will remain a fan of the sport. Asked for final reflection on her time in Glendale, she extends a sincere thank you to the community for welcoming her during her short tenure with the team: “It has been an absolute pleasure getting to play here, and the support from the staff and the people of Glendale has been second to none.”
Though Farmer and Stolba both spoke fondly of their time in Glendale, the city, and rugby fans everywhere owe acknowledgment to these accomplished players as well. Through their tireless efforts on the pitch, their character, and their passion for sport, they have helped maintain Glendale’s position at the epicenter of rugby in the United States. Past is prologue in RugbyTown USA, and it’s just as bright as the city’s future.