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Organized rugby hits Tri-State

Apr. 28, 2013 @ 11:29 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Organized rugby has arrived at the high school level in the Tri-State.

Four teams, three of which are from the area, participated in a tournament Sunday on the field behind the St. Mary's Medical Center for Education.

The goal of building rugby into an active sport at the high school level is to develop players for West Virginia college teams. Former Marshall University rugby players started the effort last year with two teams, Spring Valley and Cabell Midland high schools.

This year, there were three tournaments including teams with players from six high schools: Cabell Midland, Spring Valley, Scott, Mid-Ohio Valley (players attend Parkersburg and Parkersburg South) and South Point, Ohio.

Dennis Johnson, one of the founding members of the Marshall rugby team 24 years ago and whose son, Colt, plays for Spring Valley, said the sport is growing at the high school level. That's partly because rugby sevens (seven-on-seven) has been added to the 2016 Olympics.

Rugby is offered as a club sport at Marshall, WVU and Fairmont State and as a varsity sport at Wheeling Jesuit. Building successful high school programs will help feed recruits into those university programs, Johnson said. He expects the sport to continue its growth next season, with 15 high school coaches committed in West Virginia.

Marshall rugby alumni also have committed $5,000, which will be awarded as a scholarship this spring to a high school senior who plays rugby in West Virginia.



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