The Anderson University rugby club took first place in the Midwest Rugby Div. III Championship Tournament in Chicago on April 16, 2011. The club defeated Illinois State, Bemidji State, and Franciscan University to secure the championship. Four AU players were selected as Midwest All-Stars, including seniors Cody Rhynard and Christian Guffy, junior Joshua Soldner, and sophomore Amos Ngilla. The club now awaits word from USA Rugby regarding possible placement in the national tournament, the date of which has yet to be determined.
In their first season following the passing of long-time coach Nigel Parker, the rugby club came together to win the Indiana Division III State Championship last November at DePauw University. The club defeated both Wabash College and the University of Southern Indiana to win the championship and the opportunity to represent the state in the Division III Midwest Tournament.
“There has never been a higher point in my rugby career,” said senior forward Cody Rhynard of the state championship. “With all that was at stake — the pressure and wanting to take home the plaque with Nigel’s name on it — it was big.”
This year, the Indiana Rugby Union elected to name the Indiana Division III State Championship in Parker’s honor. Before his sudden passing in February, Parker had been instrumental in promoting the world’s third most popular sport around the state of Indiana.
“He always had his priorities set in the proper order,” said Chris Mason, junior and captain of the AU rugby club. “He put God, family, and church before everything and then was able to put a good deal of time and effort into teaching our club how to play the game of rugby.”
Both Mason and Rhynard said that Parker’s passing was a huge shock. “We were only a couple of weeks into our spring training when I got the phone call,” said Rhynard. “It was heartbreaking, but I really think it gave the guys the drive to play to their full potential — the way Nigel taught us.”
When Anderson took the field for its first match of the season, the players wore new uniforms which featured a white rose on the left breast — a tribute to Parker and his English heritage.
With a record of 4-1 the club had a strong season — losing only once in a close match to USI mid-season.
“This year, something was definitely different,” said Rhynard. “There were no ‘ifs.’ We told ourselves, we were going to do whatever it took and get the job done.”
“We want to make people outside of our network aware of who we are and what we are about — not only as a rugby club, but as a school as well," Rhynard continued. “It’s about building that legacy, and building this great sport around the area and throughout the state. I know that’s something Nigel would have wanted.”
— Charles Holcomb is a sophomore from Westfield, Ind., majoring in communication arts and political science. Holcomb is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.