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Mount St. Mary’s (The Mount) is set to make its first appearance in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) main event in June after automatically qualifying for a spot by winning the Challenge Cup at the 2017 CRC. Over the course of the last half a decade, the team from Emmitsburg, Md., has gone from a club sport to being fully embraced by the university and given Premiere Team Sport status.
In 2012, Coach Jay Myles took the reins of the then club program and pushed to change the team culture. With a focus on discipline and good grades, the team began to align much more with the school’s athletic sports. This included a charitable component with the team dedicating time to working within the community. The program charitable work has ranged from working with a local children’s hospital to Penny’s for the Poor and Walk a Mile in their shoes as an effort to make impact on the local community.
The newly instilled values attracted attention from local sponsors as well. AspireWealth Planners, the local Penn Mutual office near Baltimore, Md. subsidized jerseys for the program and has given career opportunities to the players and supported the team at the CRC’s.
“The culture at Mount St. Mary’s very much aligned with our values at AspireWealth Planners,” said David LaBricciosa, Managing Partner of the agency. “It is incredibly encouraging to see the high level of commitment, teamwork, and passion that the Mount has poured into their program. The core values that they embody are strong contirbutors to what makes for a successful career in Financial Services. We look forward to not only continuing to build the relationship with the Mount, but to continue to serve as a partner for the team and its players off the Rugby pitch.”
The new culture has produced significant improvements for the club. Playing in the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) powered by Penn Mutual, the team became a consistent contender over the past few years. In 2016, the program won the NSCRO 15s national title which was the culmination of years of hard work. “The change in culture resonated with our players. They began to gain a lot of confidence and the guys really felt like they were playing for something,” said Myles. “The University started to take notice and began to really take an interest in the sport.”
After winning the national title, Mount St. Mary’s elected to move up to Division 1-AA in search of new competition. Over the past two years it has participated in the Penn Mutual CRC qualifier tournament held in conjunction with the main event. In 2016, their first year ever playing 7s, the team made it to the finals and lost to a much more experienced University of Delaware team. Last year, however, the Mount defeated Fordham to capture the qualifier and get an automatic spot to the CRC main event.
“We are just humbled to have been able to participate in all of the Penn Mutual affiliated events. The CRC is a high profile, professional event with some of the best college rugby teams in the country,” said Myles. The University is thrilled with the team’s ability to recruit new players and build a deep program. This year alone, the team features 21 freshman recruits, an extremely high number that Myles believes is partially because of the high exposure from events like the CRC’s.
“The CRC’s really did help us promote our program and get a large contingent of new talent to attend the school. Combined with the overwhelming support from the university and the school President, our program is really growing.”
The University has made a significant investment in the rugby program, making it a Premiere Team Sport in 2018. The University has recently brought on Myles as a full-time coach and will be hiring a full time assistant and beginning to offer scholarships for rugby players.
“The University has truly embraced us and believes in the sport. Its support has been critical to our success and we look forward to making the school proud during this year’s CRC’s,” Myles concluded.