Article by Alex Solomon | Originally published at usarugby.org
LAFAYTTE, Colo. - June 25 marks the 49th Denver 7s, and the second-longest running sevens tournament is only growing stronger. This year, 170 teams will play over 12 finely-kept natural grass pitches at the immaculate grounds of Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
The event has a diverse collection of experience taking the field, from children as young as six years old to Men's and Women's Eagles competing on teams hoping to reach Club 7s National Championships. Fortunately for the future of rugby in America, the youth participants heavily outweigh their club counterparts.
Sixteen boys and girls high school sides are partaking in the fun, and there is a middle school division of a dozen teams, but the tournament's massive draw comes from the 110 youth teams.
In the older age brackets, Women's Premier League Champions Glendale Raptors and D1 Elite's University of New Mexico will be in the women's division, and three teams out of D1A Rugby's West Conference will highlight the men's collegiate bracket.
"The Denver 7s provides rugby for a wide range of skills and ages," said event organizer Howard Kent. "We ensure that the matches run on time, and that we provide all teams with amenities they are not likely to get at other tournaments."
The youth participation is positively astounding, but the cannot-miss rugby takes place in the Men's Qualifier Divisions, where 12 teams will compete for series standings points in the ultra-competitive Frontier Region. Included in the mix are highly-skilled regional contenders Glendale Raptors and Kansas City Blues, a US Army Selects side that reached the Cup rounds at last year's Nationals, and, of course, the newly-minted Rugby Utah National Development Academy and perennial National Championship contender and hometown favorites Denver Barbarians.
Last year, the Barbarians, led by club stalwarts and current Denver Stampede players Logan Collins and Maximo de Achaval and Olympic hopefuls Martin Iosefo and Ben Pinkelman won their fourth consecutive Denver 7s, and the club's 13th title since 2001.
Denver 7s does not turn 50 until next summer, but this is still a landmark year for the event. The 49th Denver 7s will the 10th such event held at Dick's Sporting Good Park, continuing to make the enormous rugby tournament the longest non-soccer event in the venue's history.
The event's consistent growth and 10-year run at Dick's Sporting Good Park can be thanked in large part to Kent. After stepping in to oversee Denver 7s for a few years in the mid-90s, Kent has been the driving force of an event the rugby community in the state of Colorado holds precious, and one that spectators can enjoy free of charge.
For more information, visit DenverSevens.com.