Men's rugby: trying for a winning season

By Caitlin Opperman

Macalester men’s rugby is hoping to leave it all out on the field this spring, according to Ben Kellman ’10, who is starting his final season as a flanker on the team. Kellman is heading up the team whose season began last weekend with a tournament in Wayne, Nebraska and a trophy to bring home.”The tournament is always a good way to start the season,” Kellman said. “It starts feeling like a team instead of just a bunch of guys on a field.”

The team is coached by Jaffrey Blanks, who played rugby for Drake University and is well-connected to the Minnesota rugby community.

“We do a good amount of self-coaching, but it’s really helpful having him around,” Kellman said. “For example, our jerseys hadn’t come in yet before the tournament, but he was able to borrow some from the St. Paul Pigs, a local club rugby team.”

This spring’s team has 19 members, more than fall season when many players, including Kellman who plays football, are involved in varsity sports.

“Individuals have to choose varsity sports over rugby so balance can be challenging,” Kellman said. “There are mixed opinions in the athletic department about playing another sport. Some coaches don’t like the extra risk of injury but others are very supportive.”

Accommodating varsity seasons results in high turnover in team membership. Kellman, Casey Christopher ’10, and Will Chow ’10 are the only seniors who have played rugby all four years. The current team is made up of mostly freshmen and seniors.

“We are very mixed in terms of experience,” Kellman said. “Some guys have played for eight or ten years while others we recruited had never seen rugby in their lives.”

Many freshmen are already playing key roles, and the team is ripe with potential, sharpening their skills.

“Rugby tests all of your skills,” Kellman said. “You have to be a well-rounded athlete. The big guys have to run fast and the fast guys have to be tough.”

With this momentum, Kellman is hoping for a winning record this season, though admits that it’s necessary to strike a balance between doing everything for fun and trying to improve and win.

The team is also hoping to get the support of Macalester fans, particularly at home games on April 10 and May 2.

“It’s really a good time watching even if you don’t know the game,” Kellman said.