Photo courtesy Roland Pratt/Beltway Elite 7s. The author is second from the left.
Guest post by Alexander Diegel
A Silver Spring-based rugby team, Beltway Elite, is heading to USA Rugby’s National Championship tournament. Beltway Elite plays the faster, seven-on-seven version of the game—the one on display at last summer’s Olympic games.
The team has several players from Silver Spring and trains at Eastern Middle School off University Boulevard East, though the base of talent is drawn from Washington D.C. to Baltimore.
The team earned the number one seed from the Mid-Atlantic region by winning the conference championship July 22. Now it has its eyes set on a national championship.
The national championship bracket is broken up amongst four pools of four teams from four different geographic regions. The top two teams from each of those regions—16 total teams—qualify for nationals.
The season is comprised of four tournaments known as qualifiers. Teams earn points based on their performance at these qualifiers, eventually culminating in a conference champion and runner-up.
Beltway will face Rugby Utah, the Frontier’s number one team and last year’s national Champions, on August 12 in Minneapolis, Minn., the Connecticut Bulldogs (Atlantic North’s number two team) and the Austin Huns (Red River’s number two). The top two teams from each pool will advance to day two’s “knockout” round where a new national champion will be crowned August 13. Those interested in watching the action can stream it live on therugbychannel.tv.
It’s quite the opportunity for a team in its first season of existence. Less than a year ago, a handful of local rugby coaches met at a bar and started chatting about the depth of local talent and the possibilities if they could get them all on the same field at the same time. Beltway Elite is the result of those conversations
The inaugural season has been a great success. Beltway also entered a second, developmental “open” side throughout the season, which came up just short in its championship game. Overall, the top “premier” team ended the Mid-Atlantic season 24-3-2. It reached the final in all four qualifier tournaments, winning two, as well as two additional preseason tournaments.
“For our first season, we can’t really have asked for a better start. But we can’t go resting on our laurels,” said Beltway head coach Jon Grasso. “We aren’t going to nationals just to participate. We are there to compete for a national championship. The real work starts in Minnesota.”
Beltway Elite is currently running a fundraiser to aid in travel expenses to Minnesota. If you’re interested in contributing, please consider a small donation to the Beltway Elite 7s Go Fund Me page. Every little bit helps.
(Discloure: Alexander Diegel is the son of Source of the Spring co-founder Mike Diegel.)