Cowpie Classic enters 28th year

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— Twenty-eight years ago the Steamboat Springs Rugby Football Club shared a field at Howelsen Hill with grazing cattle.

Where there are cows, there are cowpies. Where there is a tournament, there is a trophy, so began the tradition of the annual Cowpie Classic entering its 28th year on Saturday.

Softball fields have replaced the open grass field today at Howelsen, moving both the cattle and the rugby team, but the local club has found a new home at Whistler Park and the Ski Town Fields where this weekend's tournament will be held.

Despite the move, the Steamboat rugby team has kept the cowpie tradition alive. Teams no longer have to navigate around the animal droppings, but the winner will take a fresh one home enclosed in a glass case as a trophy whether they wants to or not.

Mark Hermacinski, a local player, said it's unlikely Steamboat will catch the cowpie, but the group of roughly 20 players representing the town are geared up for Saturday's opener anyway.

"Steamboat had the best team in the mountains for the first 18 years of the tournament," Hermacinski said. "From 1993 until around now it kind of fizzled out, but we're rebuilding. We're not going to get close to the finals, but we have some good young athletes and we're on the rise."

Teams from Colorado, as well as Utah and Wyoming are scheduled to take part. In fact, a group of former University of Wyoming players are the defending champions. Aspen is the best team in the nation, according to Hermacinski, but they are sending their "B" squad.

"We can't play their 'A' team," Hermacinski said.

Other teams competing include Jackson, Wyo., Park City, Utah, Oxford, Ohio, Glenwood Springs, Fort Collins and Denver. In all, 12 teams will take part.

The rugby tournament will take place exclusively at the Ski Town Fields directly east of the Tennis Center both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's opening rounds begin at 9 a.m. Steamboat opens at 10 a.m. against Boulder.

The champion will be determined Sunday afternoon, with closing round action beginning at 11 a.m.

The Steamboat Springs Rugby Football Club is kicking off the Cowpie Classic with a pre-match party at 7 p.m. Friday night at Toys in the Attic.

Hermacinski said the cowpie trophy would be on proud display.

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