(L-R) Kamren Lawson, Andre Johnson Jr., Tamir Washington, Kamora King, and Kaitlin Lewis (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

The View Park Knights Rugby program recently traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to compete in the inaugural Urban Rugby Championship. Both the girls’ and boys rugby teams competed against and bonded with different rugby programs from throughout the country, including Dallas and Washington DC.

Along with competing, the View Park students also visited the National Civil Rights Museum and took a riverboat trip on the Mississippi River. The trip exposed the student athletes to different playing styles along with an environment different than that of Los Angeles.

“It really established the team as a whole because we all got to know each other better,” said Kaitlin Lewis. “When we got out there and we played the first ever Urban Rugby League Championship. It’s like starting a new tradition.”

The teams were divided into two pools, playing three games a day. Both the Knights’ teams reached the championship round. The boys team won the championship while the girls came up short. Playing in a championship atmosphere was a new experience for Tamir Washington, but he knew that he had to shake off his nerves.

“We were up only by two points,” Washington said. “We had to go into the second half having to close out the game properly, and we did that. I’ve felt great because I’ve never got to bring home something for the school.”

The girls championship game was described to be “intense,” complete with hair pulling and heated verbal exchanges. Regardless of the result, the Knights girls rugby team was proud of their performance.

“We play rough, but they play rough too,” Kamora King said. “All in all, we still played our hearts out with all that happening.”

The boys also endured an intense level of gameplay they were not familiar with, enduring high physicality and strong words.

“We were head-butting each other,” Washington said. “It was high intensity, so we were going at each other.”

Visiting the National Civil Rights Museum was a fascinating experience for the Knights. The student athletes got a chance to see the hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King jr was assassinated and hear stories about the Civil Rights movement from their tour guide.

“You see pictures and you see different articles about it, but it was a surreal moment,” Kamren Lawson said. “Being able to see such historic moments, monuments up close in person and just going through and being able to take pictures of certain things that interest us, it was a really, really powerful moment.”

View Park rugby alums Asa Garrett and Denecia Fernandes came on the trip as assistant coaches. The current student athletes mentioned how the coaches related to them.

“It was an advantage for us because they were in our shoes at one point,” Andre Johnson Jr said. “And they were younger, so they know what we’re going through in the game rather than what our older coaches know.”

Despite the intense challenges, the View Park rugby students developed bonds with the students of the other rugby teams.

“They were really warm, they took us in. They treated us like we was a part of what they’re used to and we embraced that,” Lawson said.  “It’s really heartwarming to share that experience with so many people from different walks of life and come together and almost be like a big family.”