The Towner Connection
They go to school at T-G-U-Towner, but by mid-afternoon they are wearing the orange and black of Rugby on the track and baseball diamond.
And if you ask the athletes, coaches and athletic directors involved, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
“It’s been good for both schools,’ said Scott Grochow, Rugby athletic director and boys track coach. “From our perspective, it’s added a lot more depth and talent to our programs and it’s been a chance for Towner athletes to participate in baseball and be part of larger track program.”
Access to facilities, more coaching
Dan Seykora, who teaches in Towner and is part of the Panther track coaching staff, said the agreement enables Towner athletes access to great facilities and more one-on-one coaching.
“In Towner, we didn’t have a track, or the number of coaches available as Rugby’s program,’ Seykora said.
Getting participation was always a challenge with the T-G-U track program and while there have been some talented athletes who have competed over the years, the depth to put together relay teams or compete for team titles just wasn’t there.
Today, Towner athletes are given that opportunity. “Rugby is one of the best programs in the state and for our athletes to be part of it is great,’ Seykora said.
Rugby may be a Class B program, but it’s coaching staff rivals those of Class A teams. The fact athletes have access to a number of coaches who specialize in different events is a big plus, Seykora points out. The extra instruction does pay off for the athletes, and it’s a big reason why the program has enjoyed a high level of success over the years.
Seykora said Towner athletes also benefit from competing alongside their teammates from Rugby. “When you train every day with good athletes you are going to improve,’ he said.
It’s been three years since Towner started participating on the track and the athletes are doing more than just filling out a uniform. A number of them place regularly at meets and some have qualified to compete in the state meet.
Towner senior distance runner Taylor Stone is one of them. Stone was part of the Panthers’ 3200 meter girls relay at the Class B state meet a year ago.
She has liked the arrangement, noting it has enabled her to compete along side good competition, receive more coaching and be part of a state championship team.
There are 10 from Towner that participate in the program and hopefully in the future more will take part, Grochow said. “It’s been a win-win situation for everyone,’ he added.
Towner’s presence has also been felt on the baseball diamond. For the past four years, Towner participants have been part of the Panther program, and a number have filled big roles in the starting lineup.
One of them, is senior Ian Keller, who pitches and plays shortstop. “I just like the opportunity to play high school baseball,’ said Keller, who also is a sprinter on Rugby’s boys track team.
Keller was a state qualifier a year ago in the 100 meters and ran on two relay teams for Rugby at the Class B meet. He added the facilities (in Rugby) are nice for the athletes.”
Like Keller, junior Zach Thompson also pulls double duty in the spring, playing baseball and track.
Thompson likes the arrangement and said it’s been easy to get along with his Rugby teammates. He pitches and plays infield on the baseball team and throws the javelin in track.
Jim Cameron, Rugby coach, said they have provided a big lift to the program and have fit in well.
Malcolm Marcus, Towner athletic director, echos the comments of Grochow, saying the arrangement has been positive.
“It provides an opportunity we otherwise wouldn’t have for our students,’ Marcus said.
The close proximity of the two towns, just 19 miles apart, makes for a quick commute after school for practices and games.
Marcus admits T-G-U could still have its own boys and girls track programs. However, that would come with limitations, most notably, not enough athletes to field relay teams.
The partnership with Rugby allows Towner athletes to have a chance to compete in all events and also train with good coaches and have access to good facilities.
“Hopefully, in the future our numbers can pick up,’ he said. “More will want to compete.”
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