Rugby Colorado photo
Fall 2018 is the third year of the all-7s Colorado high school season, and Summit High School is leading the way per tradition. The Tigers field up to four teams when everyone is healthy, and the varsity side has won the first four of six series stops. PK Vincze – one of four returners to the varsity side, Summit Green – has seen some subtle changes in the program, and some not-so-subtle improvements individually.
“This season we had more freshmen and sophomores come out than previous years. The coaches are always building for the future and if you are keen, come to practices and work, they want you on a team. No one gets turned away,” Vincze explained.
Those numbers allow for a diversity of experiences. One can play up and learn from leaders like Girls High School All-American (GHSAA) CeCe Pennell, fellow senior Nicole Kimball and all-state Clara Copley; or take a leadership role on a younger side and develop those skills.
Vincze pointed to sophomores Brielle Quigley, Bryton Ferrari, Maleena Mero, Lilly Hess and Roxy Patnode, and freshmen Kenzie Riccardi and Jenna Sheldon as underclassmen pushing for varsity field time.
“Our team is strong this season. In the past we maybe only had a few playmakers. Now we have more people stepping up and taking those roles. Everyone touches the ball and contributes,” Vincze asserted. “Our development around sevens over the last three years is paying off.”
State-wide, Vincze noted that some teams have folded, others have aligned with high schools (most notably, Westside Swarm is now Arapahoe High School), and new programs have also emerged. Arapahoe and Monarch have been the toughest competition, while teams like East High School and Palmer High School have been advancing through the coaching leadership of Keri Peacock and Amy Rusert, respectively.
Vincze is coming off of a fruitful summer as well, having spent six weeks in New Zealand with the Inside Running Academy, an opportunity presented by Karen Fong Donoghue of The Rugger’s Edge. Vincze, the youngest of a group that ranged from 16-30 years old, lived with a host family instead of the academy housing, and joined players from Hong Kong, Dubai, the Philippines, and the Netherlands. They strength-trained four days per week and did skill work six days per week.
“Our summer is their winter, which is 15s season, so I was able to significantly improve my specific skills such as kicking, passing mechanics, tackling, the breakdown, and also offloading and be able to work on attacking space when there isn’t much room to work with,” Vincze explained.
Students were paired with either a Bay of Plenty women’s club (age 16+) or school team (ages 14-18), and played games on the weekend.
“Mike Rogers, who is a local to Mt. Manganui, has created an incredible program around high-level rugby and the Maori culture of the area as well,” Vincze enthused. “I worked with some amazing coaches – Euan Macintosh and Tim Wilson, who also coach for the Bay of Plenty teams; All Blacks and Chiefs player Liam Messam; and Black Ferns assistant coach Cory Sweeny.”
The highlight was being able to train in the same environment as the All Blacks and Black Ferns 7s, which were based in Mount Manganui in the Bay of Plenty.
“I found that after coming home I was significantly bigger and stronger as well as filled with a greater knowledge that you just don’t get unless you are immersed in their rugby culture,” the junior assessed. “I look to return to New Zealand again next summer to play elite women’s rugby before entering my senior year.”
Vincze’s gains were immediately applied at the GHSAA Futures 7s camp in Saranac, N.Y. It marked the first outing for Martha Daines in a new role as GHSAA Director and Talent I.D. Pennell, who represented Team USA during the Youth Olympic Games qualifier, was also in New York, and the duo will be heading to Chula Vista, Calif., after Christmas for the next GHSAA assembly.
Rugby Colorado is hosting its fifth leg of the series in Denver and Littleton, and 13 teams total will be in motion. Summit and its multiple sides will be participating in the Pink 7s, held in Salt Lake City, where top Utah teams like United and East will be waiting.
“We had a tough fight against United in early September and we are working to build on our win, which includes more physicality since we are on the small side of size,” Vincze looked ahead. This year’s team has a lot of potential and talent and I think that we are working hard on where we can exploit it.”
For information on the Colorado 7s series, click here.
For info on the Pink 7s tournament, click here.
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