The most significant highlight of the 2017 Midwest Girls High School Rugby championships, and one that probably hasn't gotten enough attention, is the historic and impressive growth at the heart of this long-standing event. Even at a championship event like this, this is still all about grass roots development and seeing more young athletes competing.
Brackets filled with school teams, club teams, developing teams, and full JV sides of 15 players all took the field for three matches. This was the first Midwest with a separate school bracket, and in fact there were more than enough teams to do so, with some participating in other brackets. The sheer numbers of players and the diversity of the programs reflect a clear trend of growth all across the girls game. These girls were the main event instead of a side bracket on the worst field at a bigger tournament. The new teams that came were very competitive; whether it was Walnut Hills out of Ohio or Pulaski showing they are as athletic as anyone out there.
Bringing two states back-in with expanding girls rugby offerings, Michigan and Minnesota, helped re-energize the event and helped this event be a true reflection of girls rugby across six different states. Kudos to Grandville and Hopkins for doing the extra work to participate. Maybe one day we can get Iowa involved and represent all the girls rugby being played in the Midwest.
One person is deserving of far more recognition and thanks for these accomplishments and although we're sure he would prefer to stay in the background; his efforts need to be recognized by all the participants. Midwest youth coordinator Bob Cronquist is an unsung hero in American rugby's youth development; managing all the logistics, teams, leagues, refs, and schedules year after year. As an unattached volunteer, he has for many years done this job thanklessly and with professionalism. He does the same for the boys event too. He's brought together all these different states with different schedules and development models. More importantly he's helped KEEP them together in what has to be the longest-running and largest celebration of competitive high school girls rugby teams in the country.