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Rugby reigns

By Staff | May 7, 2009

There are few things track athletes have come to expect at the Region 6 Meet.

One, the weather is usually too hot, too cold, or windy.

And, oh yeah, a Rugby team is in possession of a championship plaque at the end of the day.

Indeed, the latter has happened quite a bit in recent years. In fact, you have to go back to 2001 to find the last time neither the Panther boys or girls squad won a team title at the meet.

Consider this:?Since Rugby began competing in the Class B ranks for track in the spring of 1991, the boys have captured 16 out of 18 Region 6 titles, includng the last seven.

The girls have won 12 titles, including the past two.

The boys will be the favorite to win yet another title come Saturday, May 16.

The girls, on the other hand, will have a serious challenger in Velva-Drake.

Rugby coaches Scott Grochow and Bill Jansen will say that it doesn’t take much to get the teams motivated to perform well at regionals. The athletes know there have been a number of region titles won over the years, and they want to be part of the tradition of winning, and the desire to continue that success equates to personal bests and a few surprises at regionals.

Grochow said it’s amazing just how many times athletes post a personal best at the region meet.

Those top performances don’t come by accident, but with practice. Many of athletes are willing to stick around and put in the extra time in individual events, or work on relays, Grochow said. It’s easy for coaches to want to stay and help when so many athletes are dedicated like that.

A big part of Rugby’s success at regionals has simply been its depth. When a team can have four or five athletes compete in one event, and they all place, points are scored in a hurry.

What Rugby has proven is not only can it score, it can score in all the events on the track and field. Grochow said in recent years it’s become more apparent the program has athletes excelling not just in traditionally-strong events, such as pole vault and the jumps, but others.

The regional and state meet is the only time when coaches really focus on scoring points and determining what events they need to enter their athletes in. And past results show often those coaches put athletes in events where they will succeed.

Quality has to match the quantity, and Rugby has had its share of talented athletes who have gone on to win at regionals and then place at the state meet, and a few times win an individual crown.

Of course Rugby doesn’t just turn on a switch come the postseason. Preparation begins in the regular season. Jansen said oftentimes athletes compete in four open events or open and relays at regular season meets. That pushes their limits, and gets them primed to compete in four events at regionals.

Grochow said the athletes buy into the mindset they need to be pushed, and see what they can accomplish.

A quick glance at Rugby’s dominance would assume they are the only large school competing in the region, thus having a distinct advantage over the competition. Not true. Yes, Rugby is one of the largest schools in Region 6, but the region also includes the likes of Bottineau, Minot Ryan and Velva. All three have a good track tradition and good participation.

Perhaps the noticeable different is in terms of participation numbers. Rugby has well over 100 competing in track from grades seven through 12. It’s a sport many enjoy being part of.

Since 2004, Rugby’s Johnsen Field has been the home of the Region 6 meet.

Certainly, getting the chance to compete on its home track is an advantage for Rugby, but that doesn’t guarantee a title.

That was proven in 2006 when Bottineau’s girls team edged Rugby to become the first and only team so far to capture a title on Rugby’s track. That team went on to win the Class B state crown.

A new track surface was installed in the fall of 2006, and that will ensure the region meet will likely remain in Rugby for awhile.

Prior to Rugby hosting the meet, it was held at Herb Parker Stadium in Minot. However, lack of volunteers forced it to find a new home. Rugby has been known to run good track meets, and region teams, including those with the farthest to drive, don’t mind coming the extra miles to Rugby.

So not only is Rugby putting in the effort on the track, but they also put on a well-run meet.

Perhaps the fact many former track athletes come back to volunteer to work at the region meet, and others, or come back to help athletes in practice, is a testament of the tradition and pride of the Panther program.

A tradition that gets richer every year.

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