A league of their own

April E. Clark
Post Independent Contributor
Christopher Mullen Post Independent Delilah Fuataga stays on her feet to score for Grand Junction, as they fall 5 to 29 against New Mexico ,during the first day of the Ski Town Rugby tournament, Saturday morning.
Christopher Mullen |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Colorado Rocky Mountain School alumna Audrey Adgate stumbled upon rugby at Colorado State University.

And it has become a family affair.

“I found rugby by accident. I thought I was going out for the soccer team,” said Adgate, who grew up in Carbondale. “I’ve been addicted ever since.”

Adgate, who played soccer at CRMS, didn’t realize her full rugby potential until joining the CSU women’s team in Ft. Collins. She said her parents, Tom and Susie Adgate, have really taken to her tough-as-nails collegiate sport.

“They love watching,” said Adgate, 22. “My dad runs up and down the sidelines with my coach. That’s the best way to learn is to be on the sidelines, and my coach is OK with that so it’s been great for my dad.”

On a cool Saturday afternoon, Adgate was preparing for her next match at Glenwood Park, playing fullback with the Atomic Sisters team. The crew out of Albuquerque, featuring ruggers from the University of New Mexico, was one of four women’s teams to play the Ski Town Rugby Classic tournament for the first time. They overpowered the Grand Junction team, 29-5.

“I play a lot in Colorado but this is our first time in Glenwood Springs,” said New Mexico scrum half Jennifer Foster, 20. “I just love how the fields have mountains all around them. And I like the directors. They are so relaxed.”

Tournament director Bob Herrell said the two-day tournament was playing host to the most women ruggers the sport has seen on the Western Slope — as well as statewide — all year.

“The women are very excited to be here. We have four teams, the most in Colorado this year,” he said. “The Atomic Sisters, which is a great name by the way, from Albuquerque came early and waited to play and just showed up very strong. It was also great to see the Salt lake City team travel down to play.”

Herrell said the men’s teams also came into the Glenwood Defiance Rugby Club-hosted tournament on Saturday with gusto. A few teams immediately stood out in the large mix of tournament participants.

“The men have all played very strong,” he said. “Grand Junction is the biggest surprise of the tournament. They’re only a two-year-old team, and they won their pool handily. Jackson Hole also showed up very strong and cruised through their division. Steamboat has also had a really strong division and beat Aspen in a nail-biter, 18-14.”

Defiance Rugby veteran Mike Mirick, who was waiting for a much-needed massage after tweaking his back, said he was happy to see some of his old friends from the Mountain Division return to his home turf. Teams from Grand Junction, Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Vail, Breckenridge and Denver were in town for the tournament that concludes today.

“The players on the Grand Junction team we used to play with all the time, so it’s nice to see those guys playing for them,” he said. “It’s nice to have Junction coming out with teams.”

Defiance’s Rob Hurley, who was icing his knee after an ACL tear last month against Steamboat, said the home team is in a transitional stage under the helm of new first-year coach Ian “Spudsy” Skilton.

“We’ve had a few injuries and it’s been a challenging year,” Hurley said. “But we’re in a rebuilding year and we’ve got some new young guys, Fez from Peru, and of course our new coach.”

Skilton, who was one of the original Defiance ruggers, said the Ski Town Rugby Classic was a great opportunity for his team as well as the visiting teams from around the West.

“Rugby is really all about the relationships,” said Skilton, who was the former coach of the Junior Gents in Carbondale before taking on the Defiance gig this year. “You butt heads, you drink beer, you shake hands, and you’ve got lifelong friends. It’s just a common bond.”

Glenwood Park residents Paul and Anita Adolph, who were out Saturday to watch the tournament, have caught on to the closely bonded rugby culture.

“We don’t know a thing about rugby so we kind of just sit here and make up all our own rules as we watch,” Anita Adolph said. “It’s just fun. We were sitting on our porch and we saw some streaking on the field, and that’s what got our attention.”

Since the Adolphs can see rugby matches from their front porch, they’ve now become fans of the pitch action.

“We’re learning by watching,” Paul Adolph said. “I think it’s pretty impressive, they are all in really good shape and seem to be very dedicated to their teams.”

Paul Adolph said he may have some new friends once the tournament is over on Sunday. The event’s semifinals take place at the Glenwood Park field at 10 a.m. today, with the finals taking place at noon. The tournament is free for spectators, and beer mugs and T-shirts are available for purchase at the field.

“I think we might have to go down to Big Daddy’s and see how these guys perform after the game,” he said.

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