The University of Dallas’ largest and most popular student life event of the year is surrounded by a multitude of events that turn the single night of the Party in the Park into a weeklong tradition. Groundhog Day has evolved into Groundhog Week over the years and provides much more than just a single night’s worth of entertainment. This is certainly a good thing for the many alumni who return to their old stomping grounds for events occurring throughout the weekend. The UD Rugby and Ultimate clubs each hold annual alumni games on Groundhog weekend to bring students of the past and present together to celebrate Groundhog with more than drink and good cheer.
On the Friday night before Groundhog, UDU hosted an ultimate game between present members and alumni, among whom were some founding members of the club. The mildly cool night made for a perfect evening of fun for spectators and players alike. Senior Jason Britsch was the announcer of the night with such colorful introductions and commentary that he just may have stolen the show. But once the disc was in the air, old players met new players on the field and the game was on. The night provided an intimate intermingling of classes that few other university events can provide, with a 10-year age gap among some players, such as between 17-year-old freshmen twins Sterling and Aspen Daniels, and Patrick Butler, class of 2013. The game was mainly for the audience’s entertainment, but it also provided a chance for seniors to reconnect with old teammates and introduce new players to their heritage. The outcome of the match was a bit of a surprise, with the present UDUers beating their predecessors.
The next day, more alumni piled onto the rugby pitch for yet another tradition and more entertainment. The UD Hoggies hosted their own alumni game against ruggers from years past. The game was the final alumni match for seniors such as captain Charles Turner, who has been playing for UD for five years and has never been prouder of his fellow Hoggies than he was this year. Even though they lost to the older, more experienced alumni side, 20-31, Charlie was glad that his men led for the first half of the game and played valiantly the whole match.
“It always serves as a good reminder to us undergrad players [of] the tradition we come from, strive to uphold and are proud to take part in,” Turner said. “Seeing the ol’ boys come back and giving ‘em all you got, you just can’t beat that feeling in your chest.”
Following two rough matches the week before, it was very reassuring for the team to have such a good but challenging experience, which only helped to improve their game by pitting the team against such an experienced opponent.
“This was definitely the best, most competitive alumni match I have played in,” Turner said. “It was my last home match playing for our Hoggies, and I was proud, as always, to stand on that pitch with the boys.”
Freshman Michael Manssur was nominated as Man of the Match for his performance, and represents one of the many freshmen who have been an essential part of the team’s success this year.
Groundhog Day alumni games such as these provide much more diverse, multifaceted opportunities for students to both participate in and watch during Groundhog. Seniors such as Turner are greatly appreciative of rugby’s influence on the school and will miss it dearly.
“Our traditional game on Groundhog Day has always brought some of the biggest sporting-event crowds UD has known,” Turner said. “There are many events and traditions that go right along with Groundhog at UD, but Groundhog and rugby are one and the same in the spirit of the school.”