February 22, 2011

Keene State women's rugby team to attempt a world record

            KEENE, N.H. 2/22/11 – Anyone who has witnessed a rugby game can attest to the sport's unique appeal. The combination of strength and speed, minus any substantial protective gear, has drawn curious onlookers over the years. 

            Eighty minutes of the sport is hard enough. However, Keene State College and Williams College women’s rugby teams will be pushing their mental and physical limits when they attempt to play rugby for 24 consecutive hours, making the contest the longest-running rugby match ever. Guinness World Records has given Keene State and Williams the official green light to attempt the record in  a match that will begin on Saturday, April 23, at 8 a.m. and hopefully end no earlier than 8 a.m. on Sunday, April 24, at Cole Field on the campus of Williams College.

            The Ephs and the Owls will be raising money for breast and colorectal cancer research with their continuous play. Each team will have a 22-player roster and will be given five-minute breaks after every 60 minutes of play. 

            The Tackle for a Cure game was the brainchild of Meghan Frechette, a Keene State senior from Pelham, N.H. “I was thinking of ways to raise money for breast cancer,” she said. “A few Keene State teams have done fund-raisers in the past, so I thought it would be cool if our rugby club team could do it as well.”

            After a quick text message to a member of the Williams rugby club and some behind the scenes planning by Ephs Coach Gina Coleman (who contacted Guinness), the game was on.

            Initially, Frechette didn’t get a ringing endorsement from her teammates when she told them about the game. “It blew their minds. They weren’t sure if they would be able to handle it,” she said. But anxiety has given way to anticipation. “Everybody is on board. We’re excited to be playing the game,” said Kate D’Albis, a sophomore from Cheshire, Conn., who is the president of the KSC women’s rugby club. “It’s going to be a long, long day.”

            The players’ endurance levels and ability to take a licking and keep on ticking will be tested. Most of KSC players are converts from other sports. Abby Bingham, a senior from Troy, N.Y., ran cross country and track in high school, while Frechette was a three-sport athlete as well as a cheerleader at Pelham High. “It’s so different from any sport I tried,” said Frechette. “It’s just so nice to hit somebody and get your aggression out.”

            A member of the New England Rugby Football Union, Keene State plays most of its games in the fall. This past season, the Owls, who play in Division IV, went undefeated (5-0) and reached the championship game. 

            Spring games are few and are played to help with conditioning and to acclimate new members to the team. But this is no typical spring game. Two-day-a-week practices on the Owl athletic turf field won't cut it. Team members also have to work out on their own. “I’m really hoping we can do it. We’re trying to be very positive,” said Bingham. “We’re doing a lot of training and a lot of running.”

            “It’s going to be hard to run for 24 hours and even harder to tackle and fight for balls on the ground,” said Karen (Friend) Johannesen, the Owls’ fifth-year coach and Salem, N.H. native, who also played as an undergraduate at Keene State. “They better be in shape and be able to play different positions.”

            Essentials such as lights and 24-hour EMT support are being donated. The Keene State team is also ordering special pink and black uniforms for the game. There’s been talk of having coffee instead of water for players on the sideline.

            Each player has her special way of getting ready for the game. Frechette, who works as a waitress at the Longhorn restaurant in Keene, jokingly says she is putting down extra helpings of steak. “It’s my final game, so this is going to be my last hurrah. So I’m going to give it all I can for those 24 hours,” said Frechette.  

            To find out how you can supports this event and its worthy causes please contact Leah Landsdowne at (541) 610-8545 or at info@scrumforacure.org.