Yesterday I made a quick trip south to warmer climes – about 200 miles to Ames, Iowa. The landscape was devoid of snow and the temps were in the low 50’s (almost tropical for this person from Minnesota where it had just dumped seven inches of snow on Friday!). My nephew plays on the Kansas State Rugby team and they were playing the Iowa State team in Ames. I don’t have much experience with rugby, but it is a fast-moving game, rough and tumble, and a testament to endurance and teamwork. This match was very physical and included some tough injuries too. In the end, the Iowa State team prevailed over Kansas State. But the day provided time for catching up with my nephew and my brother & sister-in-law — well worth the drive!
The Mens Division I College Rugby playoffs were being played this past weekend. One of the rounds of the Sweet 16 was played in Blaine, Minnesota at the National Sports Center. I don’t normally follow the sport of rugby, but I have a nephew that plays for the Kansas State/Fort Riley Rugby Football Club. The team was ranked 9th in the country and had earned a spot in the playoff rounds. With family traveling north to Minnesota to enjoy the weekend playoffs we were looking forward to spring weather and good competition. Saturday’s schedule had the University of Minnesota playing the University of Davenport, and Kansas State University playing Texas State University. Under a torrential downpour and strong winds, the teams battled each other as well as the elements. Kansas State University and the University of Davenport advanced to play one another Sunday for the opportunity to travel to the finals in California in two weeks. While everyone thought the elements couldn’t be much worse than Saturday, Sunday’s games were played in a bone-chilling 35 degree temperature with steady winds of 25+ mph howling across the fields. The fans’ rain gear, boots, and umbrellas that were required for Saturday’s games were traded in for layers of long underwear, multiple coats, gloves, hats, blankets, and scarves. Both teams played hard and long, and in the end the University of Davenport won, 44-5. I admire the effort and the conditioning required for rugby, and I would have loved to see the Kansas State University team advance to the Final Four, but they can be proud of their record and their accomplishments this year.
Unbeknownst to me there is a huge annual rugby tournament held in the spring in Wayne, Nebraska. Seventy-two teams, men and women, converged on the town of Wayne this past weekend for the March Madness Rugby Tournament. I have a nephew playing on the Kansas State/Fort Riley Rugby Club, and they were scheduled to play in the tournament. With a drive south from the Twin Cities, we were in the middle of teams from 17 states — a driven and exciting rugby culture. K-State won their first three games, putting them in the championship game again Bethel University (which happens to be in my home-town of St. Paul). Although my loyalties were tested, I had to cheer for the K-State Wildcats. In a close match, K-State prevailed with a final score of 23-21. Congrats to the team and players, and may your bruises and scrapes heal quickly!