Rugby update from UNM

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Even though I cannot see all of Alex’s game anymore, I do get lucky enough to scope out some pictures now and then from generous local New Mexico photographers. Here’s a set from a couple of weeks ago when they played their first game of the winter/spring season. Alex played 70 minutes at scrum half (the 9) and then the last 10 at wing (the 11). They won in a shutout, but he reported that it was one of the rougher games he’s ever played. Since the opposing team named their scrum half as man of the match, I gather it was because he was ALL OVER Alex on every play. The photos are pretty much him either making a tackle or being tackled. He said he’s never been more sore after a game! Thankfully he recovered well and hopped on a bus last week to Las Vegas with a local club team – the Black Dragons – to play in a Rugby 7s tournament being held in conjunction with the national 7s weekend games. There, he played in 5 of 6 games, scored a try in one and generally had a great time as their team came in 2nd place in their grouping.

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The Kid is Alright – Albuquerque Weekend

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A much needed visit to New Mexico to check in on Alex. Texting & weekend phone calls just weren’t enough especially since we dropped him off on Aug 17th and he wont be back in town until Dec 13th. I needed a visual in between those four months!

The weekend was just perfect. I landed in town right as he got out of his last Friday afternoon class at 2pm. I rented a car and got in to the hotel by 3pm and was picking him up to go dorm room supply shopping by 4pm. We found a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner to combine World Series viewing with food and then went back to my hotel to finish watching the game and play a round of Phase 10 (no, I didn’t remember to pack my cards – yes, they had it at the Wal Mart!) I dropped him back off at 9pm and prepared for the most challenging part of my whole weekend: a 6 mile Sat morning run.

Since I’m training again for a 1/2 marathon I need to run longer distances on the weekends. I REFUSED to do another round on a treadmill after that awful experience in Salt Lake, so I did a google search to find safe running trails/routes in the area and up popped the Albuquerque Road Runners Club. This very active group of runners have planned weekend runs and it just so happened that Sat the 25th was a 6 mile run at the Bear Canyon Arroyo trails. Visitors welcome the site said, so I emailed the organizer to let them know I would be dropping in and the response was immediate & welcoming. Still, I was nervous meeting them at 7:30am on Saturday! Luckily the meeting spot was 10 minutes from my hotel (just about everything was that weekend as it turned out – seems like there’s about a 5 square mile radius of the town with the University in one corner and all other places we wanted to go were contained in there.) My biggest challenge was the run itself – turns out this “older” group of runners were all quite seasoned at altitude distance running and were quite easily setting a 9-10 min mile pace. Meanwhile, there was me – a 10-12 min mile runner at best down at sea level! There was one other runner who was slower, but she only ran with us for 3 of the 6 miles. I felt bad about making them stop and “regroup” for what must have seemed like forever to them waiting for me to catch up, but they were all really very gracious and even applauded me as I came in for the final mile 🙂  When I checked my phone, I had actually completed the route at just under a 12 minute mile pace, but let me tell you, it FELT like I been moving through molasses and there were several times when there was literally no oxygen in my lungs.

From there it was on to a quick breakfast & cleanup and then I picked up Alex from campus to drop him off at the offsite rugby pitch for the afternoon’s matches. Then I went to buy a chair to sit in because there was no way I was going to stand all day after that run! I left the chair with him to use for future games. Normally the team plays on a field on campus right by his dorm, but for this match they were on a large group of fields near the airport. There were 2 games. The A side which was the main event and then the B side for the younger players (like Alex). They were playing Colorado State which was ranked #10 at the time. UNM is not ranked and in fact is win less within the D1a west division, but that was to be expected. Still, the A side got close a few times and (we think), the B side actually won! I didn’t care – it was just so nice to be back out there watching Alex play again in person 🙂  We had a quick dinner after and then I dropped him off to go socialize…err…party…errr..bbq…errr….well..it’s rugby! Apparently the Colorado team stayed the night and joined them at their party and everyone was “chill” and had a great time. The house where they gather is about 2 blocks from the dorms – I saw the route – it’s perfectly safe and well lit and an easy stumble back in the wee hours of the morning :)) (again, it’s rugby!)

We regrouped back at Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch on Sunday and some leisurely football viewing and then made our way out to the Sandia Peak tramway to ride up to the mountain peak and watch the sun set over the Albuquerque basin. Then we had dinner up there with a view of the twinkling city lights below. When I dropped him off Sunday night, there was not even a hint of sadness. He will be home for semester/winter break in 6 weeks and now I have seen with my own eyes that UNM really is the perfect spot for him. He’s got everything he needs either on campus or just a block or two away and the rugby team is a great match for him socially. Some of them also live on campus so he walks with them to weight training and practices and meets them for meals. The bottom lines is, they are a great bunch of guys. Fun loving of course, but also smart enough to keep priorities in order. The main reason for the party that weekend was because one of them is graduating at the end of this semester and this was his last game with the team. He’s in good hands with them.

Freshman shenanigans

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*We interrupt this Salt Lake City set of posts in progress – these photos were too rich not to share right away!*

While I was in SLC, Alex’s rugby team drove in to Tuscon, Arizona to play U of A in rugby. Both squads have enough players on hand to have both an A and B side game. The A game counts, the B game doesn’t but it gets players some game time. Alex will mostly play B side in the Fall. He also might not always play at the 9 (scrum half). That day, he was put in at one of the Wings (#11). He said he had fun, but both the A & B squads lost. It’s going to be that way. UNM is only just getting back into the D1A level and they will get beat up pretty good when they play in their league.

Anyway….a very generous lady travels with the team and takes photos. I was thrilled to see she took pictures from both games. I started to notice some strangely shaved heads in the A game photos. And quite honestly I passed right by about three photos of my own son before I realized it was him. Apparently they had freshman initiation last weekend. It was his idea (he claims) that the newbies should all shave their heads partially for this road game – and then just take it all off after. So, temporary. Not sure he expected there to be photo evidence!

I think that was a rather brilliant idea – he needed a haircut (I was actually thinking of taking him to get one when I go visit next weekend because I knew he was pretty shaggy when we dropped him off – no need now!) and while he may not have chosen a completely bare head, at least it was free and some fun was had from it!

Enjoy (click on the photos for full sized version)

One month later – an update from our UNM Lobo!

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Because he is male, what I have to report is mostly via choppy text messages, but….

One month after drop off and class start, he thinks all of his teachers a great. So much so that even though his math class creates a conflict with rugby, he didn’t attempt to switch out because he didn’t want to lose that teacher. I’m really impressed because this also has turned out to be the only teacher giving out regular homework. All other classes are apparently weekly assignments and quite manageable.

He has 5 classes – Calc B, English Comp 3, Intro to German, Physics & Computer Programming. Earliest class start is 9:30am, but he has evening classes 3 out of 5 nights.

Now, rugby – he wasn’t sure he would play, but after a team meeting and practice or two he was sold on it again (which I suspected would happen). It’s a great band of brothers to have instantly. Many are locals with cars so if you need to get to Wal Mart for some quick snacks/supplies, it is great to have a ride. So far though, it seems that other than Wal Mart and a Rugby team trek to Santa Fe, he hasn’t been off campus much! He asked for a TV about a week after move in since he ended up without a roommate and he figured out he had time even with class to play some Xbox now & then. It’s been nearly 2 weeks since the TV was delivered and he hasn’t had it hooked up to the in room satellite service! When I asked why he said “rugby & math”. Hah!

Anyhow, he wont play a ton in games this Fall – he’s an out of shape (especially for altitude) freshman with a lot to learn. The Santa Fe tournament was all local New Mexico teams and the Lobos won. Since there were multiple games, he was able to start the first 1/2 of one game. He said he played terribly and was light headed from the lack of oxygen. That was Labor Day weekend. They were off the rest of the time until today when they officially start the D1A Fall season against Air Force, a ranked team (UNM is not ranked). At the last update on the team twitter account they were losing 45-14 😦 Not unexpected really. Alex most likely didn’t play. I’ll check in with him tomorrow about it. They play next week in Wyoming (wow!). He’s not sure if he will be on the travel roster or not, but I do love that he’s participating in something that will get him out to see other parts of the country!

Anyway – he said he’s quite happy/comfortable with everything overall. So, yay! Here’s some photos I stole from the UNM Rugby Facebook page – proof he is alive and active 🙂

A page from today's digital game program.

A page from today’s digital game program.

Roster page from the program.

Roster page from the program.

Team photo from the Santa Fe victory.

Team photo from the Santa Fe victory.

College drop off photos – We are Lobos!

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Scroll over each photo to view the captions which partially tell the tale. No time to type it all out right now!

University of New Mexico Tour Day (LONG)

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UNM Banner

Day 3 of our Spring Break Road Trip was the primary reason for traveling – a group tour at the University of New Mexico at 9am Friday and then a lunch meeting with the Lobos’ Rugby coach and some players.

UNM was the only school Alex ever considered in the US. By sheer stroke of luck we stumbled on it at a college fair in 10th grade and when the recruiter mentioned he could apply without writing an essay well, you can imagine that my math and science guy who loathes language classes was thrilled! Plus, we were told that even with a 2.5 GPA he would be accepted nearly instantly and with a decent ACT or SAT score, he would qualify for a scholarship granting him in state tuition rates (close to a $16k value per year). As a D1 NCAA sports school, he also knew it would provide him with the extra-curricular sports involvement and atmosphere he would crave. Combine that stroke of luck with his recent participation in Rugby and all of a sudden he is lined up to be able to play a sport in college! UNM Rugby had been relegated to club status the last year or two due to some previous year’s with a sketchy/corrupt coaching situation. However, timing being what it is, starting next year the new coach who we met will be bringing the club back to full D1 status. So – while we always though he might angle to play football in school – it turns out rugby will be his sports outlet. Coach Coco played while in college at Arizona and is clearly taking pride in cleaning up the program in Albuquerque. He’s a former scrum-half – also known as the 9 in rugby which is the position Alex has been playing. After watching some film that our high school club coach sent out, he was giving Alex pointers right there at lunch!

Wait – got ahead of myself. Anyway, Alex was accepted quickly, did get the instate scholarship and as soon as we knew going to Sweden for undergrad classes was not going to pan out, I scheduled this visit just to be sure he didn’t hate it.

He didn’t 🙂

Yes, the rugby connection helps a ton, but it was really a great 2 hour tour conducted by a current student. We saw a classroom which was surprisingly small. There are large lecture halls but apparently those are only used for a few general freshman classes. Most of the courses are taught in smaller groups. There’s free, pretty decent wireless internet everywhere on campus and tons of beautiful areas to gather, nap, study, nap, eat, nap…etc. Students can borrow laptops and tablets if they don’t have their own. They can print papers and homework to about 5 different printer centers on campus for a small fee, but our tour guide said his parents put $10 on his printing account and he didn’t even use the whole balance in a full year. So it is very high tech and it seems as if a student ID gains you just tons of access to services on campus. Of course there is a full service medical/dental office, but there is also a hospital a block away. The dorms looked great. They are pretty basic rooms of course, but again with the wireless and also cable TV service on site. Laundry facilities are free and huge in each building. There are security services on campus 24/7 to escort students around anytime they feel nervous about walking around at night alone. It’s a large campus, but also entirely walkable as we proved by walking from one end to the other twice while we were there!

It’s a high tech, modern campus that is over 100 years old set in a community that is deeply influenced by Native American culture. It’s just beautiful out there. It’s also dry, windy, and up in altitude at 5000 ft. above sea level. That’s something we both felt after even just a day. That’s something HE will have to adjust to quickly as a rugby player!

Our next step is to head out again for freshman orientation right after he graduates high school. That’s when we get him enrolled formally for Fall classes and also get those financial aid options laid out for a way to pay for the reduced tuition/room/food. It’s still going to kick our wholly unprepared bank accounts without help – but it can be done. I actually believe it’s OK to use student loans. Establish credit history and have the student feel some responsibility towards paying back for his education. It won’t be a horrendous amount and given that he’s going to major in the computer sciences, his hiring and earning potential is one of the highest.

All in all, it was a very positive visit. I guess I will be putting that UNM sticker on the back of my car 🙂