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There's playing well enough to be invited to the Boys HS National Championships, then there's playing well enough to be seeded high, and finally, there's running your season in a way that gets you ready for the tournament itself.
Deep into that third thing is Xavier HS out of New York. The Xavier program always produces strong performances at nationals but hasn't won it all since 2010 when they beat Gonzaga in Sandy, UT.
Utah, coincidentally, is the location of this year's HS Nationals, and also the location of a spring tour that Xavier took this past weekend.
"The Utah tour was a first-time experiment," said Xavier head coach Greg Norris. "We are traveling to the same place three weeks later, so we hoped to allow the squad a better preparedness for what is in store."
Norris said the altitude—more than 4,000 feet above sea level—is one thing he wanted to get his players used to.
"Having experienced this only three weeks prior will allow us an opportunity to gauge more accurately our fitness levels heading into the tournament," said Norris.
"We played three games in five days and tested ourselves against strong Polynesian rugby boys who were man-for-man at least 30 pounds heavier," continued the coach. "Saying that. we were never lacking in heart when it came to defense. Xavier boys are solid defenders and always box above their weight with formidable determination and devastating aggression."
It wasn't really a surprise that Xavier stepped up to defend against bigger teams, and having tested themselves and come out looking pretty good, opponents should be concerned.
Xavier beat Snow Canyon in the first game, lost 27-13 to Herriman, and then won 28-26 over East HS.
"The result of the second game was not exactly what we wanted," said Norris. "We made too many simple errors that denied us scoring opportunities. It was certainly frustrating as we did not play to our potential."
But part of playing three games in three days at the National Championships is bouncing back after a tough day.
"The challenge after a loss like that was the ability to recover and reset for the next day," said Norris, who gave a lot of credit to the work of his coaches and trainer in getting the platers ready for the third game less than 20 hours later.
It was a hot day at East HS, and Xavier started the warmer, scoring early to lead 7-0. The teams traded tries through the rest of the first half, and the second, and East took a 26-21 lead with two minutes to go.
But with the final play of the game, Xavier stole an East lineout, moved it wide, and scored. The conversion was good for a 28-26 victory.
"I believe that this was the most valuable outcome of the tour," said Norris. "Being able to come from behind after a grueling loss and little recovery will hopefully prove to this team that they are capable."
This was still a tour and the players did visit Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park to see a little of the sights of Utah. But this was first, and foremost, a rugby trip.
"The next three weeks will afford us the possibility to sharpen our skills, fine-tune our fitness, and mentally prepare ourselves for our next trip out to the Beehive State," said Norris.