LOUISVILLE — Monarch High School athletics are known for their recent success in sports like hockey, track and cross country, and many others, but not really for rugby.
If the rugby club at Monarch continues to grow at its current rate, however, that team could also begin to become a source of recognition for the Coyotes' ranks in the coming years.
Just four years into its existence, the Monarch rugby club and its competitive team won the Division I Colorado state championship on May 20. With their victory over long-established Denver East in the championship game, the Coyotes made it clear that they are determined to stick around as one of the state's top-tier clubs.
"It was incredible," senior captain and scrum half Jordan Savage said. "We fought through the first two years and had very few wins. We struggled learning the game because we were all pretty new to it. But we grew pretty quickly because we have great coaches. Then, to win in overtime, it was just a great feeling to finish."
The Coyotes' first state championship was no easy win.
At the end of the team's first regular season in Division I, the Coyotes entered the state tournament as the No. 3 overall seed and faced Denver East, a program that has been around for over 20 years, in the program's first Division I title game appearance.
Despite having previously been dealt their only loss in 2017 by Denver East, 20-14 during the regular season, the Coyotes defeated Denver East in the championship game, 29-24 in overtime May 20 at North Stadium in Westminster. The Coyotes gained possession of the ball with only a couple minutes left in overtime. Per the rules of rugby, the game continues into extra time until the possessing team loses the ball, and the Coyotes eventually scored the game-winning try nearly four minutes into extra time.
Savage, who has been awarded a rugby scholarship to Life University, scored the game-winner.
The Coyotes have also traveled a long road in order to claim that first title. They lost to Palmer in the Division-II state championship game last season and as the top two teams at the end of last season, both teams moved up to Division I this spring. The Coyotes beat Palmer in the final minute of this year's Division-I semifinals.
Monarch rugby is a tier-3 club on campus but though it plays under the school's name, the competitive team competes independently outside of Colorado High School Activities Association-sanctioned sports is not technically affiliated with the high school. Having competed in two state title games in its first four years, 85 percent of the players on the Monarch competitive team attend Monarch High. The rest come from neighboring schools including Erie, Broomfield, Fairview and several who are home schooled.
"Eventually, we'd love to have some of these kids in our area go back to their own high schools and start their own teams," said head coach Chris Hanson, who started the Superior youth program in 2009. "It would be great to have a lot of the schools around here with their own teams so we could have our own league and continue to grow the sport."
The Monarch rugby club also toured Ireland over spring break and played a pair of games while abroad. The Coyotes boys team will continue to play sevens during the summer. The club also started a girls team last season, and that club will compete in the fall.