Rugby has returned to Clayton Heights.
Bruce Dayton, manager of the rugby program at Clayton Heights Secondary (CHS), said there’s excitement at the high school now that the rugby’s been restarted.
“We have not had rugby at Clayton Heights Secondary for many years since some of our long-time teachers and coaches retired,” he said. “Teachers Dave Pue, Kim Eagle, and Colin Campbell historically ran the program, but since they retired there has not been an opportunity to play.”
This changed after Dayton, who is also counsellor at the school, reached out to Andrew Evans, director of rugby at Trinity Western. Evans then solicited everyone in his contact list to see if anyone wanted to coach high school rugby.
“Two fearless female rugby players from the women’s team at Trinity stepped up to the challenge.”
Dayton said Kleo Schmidt volunteered to be head coach for senior boys’ rugby and Vlada Shevchenko volunteered to be the assistant coach.
“Equally exciting was finding out we had another female coach Riley McMaster right here under our noses on staff at CHS ready to join forces,” added Dayton. “Assistant coach Riley now completing the super coaching trio.”
Dayton said the rugby program made some noise as they found success in their first season back.
“The boys (gave) it their all. Some of these guys have never played rugby before, it is really quite unbelievable to witness,” added Dayton. “Our kicker Marcus is a soccer player. He hits two points every kick.”
He said the kids formed a rugby family on and off the pitch.
“They care so much about each other and the game. This is what will be remembered long after the season is over, along with the values these women are instilling in our boys,” he said. “I couldn’t be more appreciative and proud of the opportunity Trinity Western University has provided to our school, making us look good even with our jerseys from 1999.”
He said his ragtag group are comprised of soccer players, rowers, track athletes and even three international students from Italy.
“Valentino Marocco, Tommaso Rosseli, and Giulio Barbosa, have now added rugby to their experience while in Canada.”
Dayton said his squad surprised multiple teams in their league, including a crosstown rival.
“Clayton Heights played Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, in what has been known since 2008 as the Rodeo Bowl when it was originally created by well-known community rugby mogul and teacher Walter van Halst,” explained Dayton. “These two schools have had a rivalry over the years so both teams were out to win.”
In that derby, Clayton Heights ran out a 28-0 win over Tweedy. The illustrious Rodeo Bowl is now tucked nicely into the school’s trophy display cabinet.
“The coaching staff kicked into high gear and whipped the CHS boys into shape,” Dayton added. “(The Rodeo Bowl) will be making its way shortly to Trinity Western University to share in the big win.”
Clayton Heights’ success has created a “huge buzz” in the Clayton and Trinity communities.
And team captain Marc Mclaughlin was recently awarded a scholarship to TWU.
Dayton said he’s going to build on the success of the senior boys program by starting a Grade 8 and 9 program next year.
This year the senior boys, led by team captain Mclaughlin, will work with kids in younger grades to prep them for a full season of rugby next year.