SARANAC LAKE -— The 39th annual Can-Am Rugby Tournament officially got under way as the US U20 Women’s National Team staged a spirited intrasquad exhibition match at Ken Wilson Field Thursday night.
The contest, normally pitting national squads from Canada and the United States, was modified when the Canadians were unable to send a team to this year’s event.
“Everyone’s on a tight budget these days, and it really came down to expenses,” tournament director Jay Annis said. “The national teams can only afford to send a team to so many events over the course of the year, and with the World Cup right around the corner for them, they decided they just couldn’t afford to send us a team this time around.
“That’s why we decided to do a different kind of exhibition this year.”
The lack of an international flavor did very little to dampen the competitiveness of the exhibition however, as the U.S. split squad, featuring the top U20 talent from around the country, battled to a 17-17 tie over three hard-fought, 15-minute periods.
Maggie Myles stood out on the Blue side of the ball with a pair of nifty tries, and Hannah Fallon, Natalie Kosco and Elizabeth Cairns answered with a try apiece for the White squad. The back-and-forth contest ultimately came down to conversions, with each team connecting on one of their three attempts.
An item of local interest was the presence of Saranac Lake’s Bailey Annis, who was invited to the National Team camp being held in Lake Placid this week. Annis also stood out as one of the top performers for the White team during the exhibition.
The tournament will continue for the balance of the week with division finals slated to be held on Sunday.
Since its inception back in 1973, the Can-Am has grown into major event in the Adirondack region, one that has galvanized the area on multiple levels.
“Everyone wants a piece of this around here,” said Annis, who took over as event director approximately eight years ago. “This thing has really grown in recent years. We’ve added more teams, and a ton of work goes into pulling something like this together.
“But I have found, whether it’s the hotels, the restaurants, local businesses or the venues themselves, everyone in this area wants to be a part of this every summer. It really is a big deal for us. Other than the Ironman and maybe the Winter Carnival this is one of the biggest events we have down here.”
And the reason for the growth and area popularity of the event?
‘I think it’s just a fun event for everyone involved,” continued Annis, who in addition to his administrative duties also competes on one of the tournament teams. “The caliber of the rugby itself has improved over the years for sure, but I think the real draw is that this is just a fun event.
“Rugby is also a life-sport — unlike baseball or football — which you can compete at a high level at almost any age. And whether you’re a competitor or a spectator or whatever, it’s something almost anyone can and will enjoy.”
Tournament play will get under way this morning in multiple divisions and will be staged in Saranac Lake, Bloomingdale and North Elba.
at Saranac Lake Middle School
Pequea Exiles (A3) vs. Mid-Hudson (A4), 8 a.m.
Wild Oats (B2) vs. Blackthorn (B3) 9 a.m.
Virginia Cardinals (A1) vs. Mystic River Hombres (A2), 10 a.m.
Blackthorn (B3) vs. Father and Sons (B1), noon
Gitchee Gummee vs. Connecticut Grey, 8 a.m.
Lockport vs. Belleville, 9 a.m.
Warts vs. Green Mountain Geezers, 10 a.m.
MOB vs. Ottawa Senators, 11 a.m.
White Plains vs. Penn St., 8 a.m.
Amoskeag vs. East Side Hyena’s, 9 a.m.
Schenectady Reds vs. Buffalo, 10 a.m.
Brockport vs. Syracuse, 11 a.m.