For nearly a decade, competitive rugby in the Valley started and ended at the high school level. The Grand Junction Griffins was a mixed-bag of high schoolers hailing from Grand Junction, Fruita, and Palisade.
And despite the team’s relative success on the pitch, the sport never gained true traction.
Enter Joshua Pendergrass, founder of the 4 Corners Rugby Academy, with a new idea to turn heads. Pendergrass is a Grand Junction resident, dedicated to bringing rugby to the west side of Colorado and making it available for all ages.
His message to those hesitant to participate in the unique sport: what do you have to lose?
“Whether you trust it, or like it…or you think it’s a dangerous sport, just come out and try it,” Pendergrass says. “See how you feel, see how it grabs you. Because rugby grabs you by the heart, and it keeps on grabbing.”
Pendergrass has been around the sport of Rugby for years. Initially a high-level player, injuries forced Pendergrass to change his impact on the game and instead, transitioned to coach. He recently received his 300 level coaching certification from USA Rugby.
The idea for 4 Corners Rugby came from his stepson, Max Marshall. 11-year-old Max wanted to play rugby, but a lack of youth teams in the Valley made it impossible. So Pendergrass decided to change that.
4 Corners has been around on the Western Slope for about a year now, operating as a nonprofit with a board of directors and multiple certified coaches. Their foundation is still firmly set at the high school level. The Grand Junction Griffins operates in conjunction with 4 Corners Rugby and travels to the Front Range to play opponenets. But the organization knows there’s room for a competitive rugby scene closer to home.
“We can be grassroots rugby,” Pendergrass says. “With the athletes we have in this town and the high-altitude training, we can make an incredible rugby program, and make a real dent in USA Rugby here in this town,”
4 Corners Rugby services three primary age groups: youth, high school and adult leagues. Cyle Bilger, Vice President of 4 Corners Rugby, believes the high school players will be the foundation for a blossoming program.
“I really think we can have three teams: Grand Junction Griffins, Fruita Sabrecats, and Mesa Ravens,” Bilger says. “I think we have the population here in the growing Valley that can do that for us.”
With the high school season wrapping up in the spring, 4 Corners Rugby’s next league will be their adult program starting up in about a month. More information can be found on their website, 4cornersrugby.org