High school ruggers meet up in Lake Placid

Capital North defenders converge on a Essex ball carrier during high school rugby action in Lake Placid on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

LAKE PLACID — About 200 girls and boys high school rugby players descended on the North Elba Show Ground fields for a tournament on Sunday, and one coach said the sport draws so many athletes because of its inclusivity.

Local high school ruggers compete on the Capital North teams, which are comprised of student-athletes from a number of North Country high schools, including Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, as well as ruggers from Saratoga and Vermont. After Sunday’s tournament wrapped up, Tiffany Renaud, a Capital North coach, said the draw to rugby can be particularly strong for girls.

“I think it is the most — especially for girls — the most body positive sport there is,” Renaud said. “You can be any shape, any size, any speed and play. There’s a place for everyone on the team.

“I think it’s inherent to rugby. It’s about inclusion and nobody gets left behind. One of our sayings is ’15 is one,’ so it’s 15 players against 15 players (during a match), but we all play as one and that’s how we do well.

“These girls don’t know each other from day-to-day, but they’ve been coming out every week and they’ve formed these bonds they wouldn’t normally have.”

A player, with help from her teammate, makes a tackle for the Capital North girls in a match against Essex. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Sunday was the last in a series of regular-season tournaments this spring, and despite a loss, Renaud said the combined group played well.

“I think they played with a lot of heart and soul,” she said. “It’s a combination of four different sides, from Rutland (Vermont), Saratoga, Adirondack and South Burlington, so we never played together except for once a week. And so this is the third time we’ve played as a team, but we don’t necessarily practice together, so it’s a little tougher.

“The kids remembered some of the basics of rugby and supported each other well. Every day we get out there and play rugby is a good day.”

Emily Morgan, coach of the Essex Rugby girls’ team, also said her squad gets more out of the game than just physical fitness.

“I think they just learn some good sportsmanship, good things about community, growing a game and just working hard and working together,” she said. “Friendships that last a lifetime. I think one of the benefits of playing a sport that requires 15 people on the field at a time means that you really have to learn to communicate. You have to stand behind what you say you’re going to do, and you have go out there and do it, so there’s a lot of life lessons that can convert from this sport.

“The squad shaped up. There were some ups and downs, but it’s really great to see everyone’s fitness high, great attitudes, and everybody played their best. That’s all we can ever ask for.”

Although this was the last tournament of the season for high schoolers, rugby remains busy in the Tri-Lakes through August’s Can-Am Rugby Tournament, which takes place in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid from Aug. 2 through 4.