Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Rugby Club is set to host the 29th annual Cowpie Classic this weekend, and bolstered by several new team members, it hopes to make a run for the finals.
The Steamboat Springs rugby team has spent the past several years rebuilding and trying to form a core group dedicated to practicing and competing.
They may have found it, but the appeal of summer in the Rocky Mountains has lured new players into Steamboat, as well.
Mark Hermacinski, president of the club, said the new additions have blended well with the group already in place from last year's team.
The club welcomed players not just from the United States but from England, New Zealand and Australia, countries where rugby is a popular sport.
"It's worked out well," Hermacinski said. "They are experienced, so they can hop on any team, and we've benefited from their experience. We are stronger than we've been in the last eight years. It's a long-shot, but we are shooting to make the finals."
The two Englishmen were looking for an American team on the Internet, and flew out to join Steamboat's squad.
"It was lucky to get these guys," Hermacinski said.
Several other members who are working here this summer headed to the Ski Town fields for practice and became part of the competitive team.
The Cowpie Classic, named for the cattle droppings found in the pasture fields where the tournament used to be played, is a longstanding tradition in Steamboat, even if many residents have had little exposure to the sport, Hermacinski said.
Anyone interested in learning more about rugby will have an opportunity Saturday and Sunday at the Ski Town fields. Admission is free.
Up to 10 teams from the mountain region are slated to compete.
A team from Salt Lake City is favored, although teams from Wyoming, Aspen and Breckenridge traditionally are strong and have fared well in past tournaments.
Teams in the mountain region often are among the best rugby teams in the country.
This year's team already has picked up a win over the Denver Highlanders but dropped games to Breckenridge and Salt Lake City. The final schedule will be released Friday but Hermacinski said Steamboat will open play at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Ski Town fields.