BOISE- When you think of Idaho, rugby probably isn't the first thing that pops in your mind.
But those involved in the sport locally are hoping that will soon change after hosting a rugby tournament called the Great Northwest Challenge.
“This is a big tournament,” said Diane Hersey, a board member of Rugby Idaho. “This is the largest all-star tournament in the U.S. this summer.”
“We're not real well known for rugby,” said Greg Turpen, coach for Rugby Idaho TOA. “But it seems like we might be more well-known for it in the future.”
Forty-five teams from all over the West played in the tournament held at Optimist Youth Sports Complex in Boise Friday and Saturday.
“We've been here 12 hours a day, fed hundreds and hundreds of kids last night, we've had great competition,” Hersey said. “Everyone has been playing their hearts out.”
2012 is the last time this tournament was held in Idaho, and locals are excited to have it back.
“We represent Idaho,” said Evolution coach Jay Singleton. “We want more people to pay attention to us, we want more people to play and we look forward to showing the rest of the country how we do it here.”
“To get that kind of exposure here in Idaho really helps our cause,” Turpen said. “We'd like to grow the sport and this is something that could really help that.”
“Rugby in Idaho is fairly new. We're kind of behind the times as far as how long Idaho has been playing, but we've seen an incredible amount of growth,” Hersey said.
And that growth is starting to pay off. Teams from the Gem State proved to be fierce competition during the tournament. Evolution defeated the Washington Loggers Saturday in the Boys Tier 1 championship game, and TOA defeated the Rhinos Rugby Academy of California for the Boys Tier 2 title.
“Idaho has done exceptionally well we've made history this weekend it's the first time we ever beat one of the elite USA academies,” Hersey said. “We're pretty excited. We're flying high right now.”
“Momentum is everything in rugby,” said player Abe Turpen. “We were thinking we just needed to come out in the second half and get our momentum, and that’s what we did.”
“I just can't get away from the game,” said Kyle Vantonder, player. “It's what I want to go when grow up. It's a part of my life.”