A win-win for rugby teams and cancer research

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The Princeton men’s rubgy team beat William Paterson to win the Rickerson Cup March 31. Mike Howard ’13, left, was selected as the tournament’s most valuable player. (Photo: Courtesy Richard Lopacki)
Princeton rugby posted a perfect record on its home turf at the West Windsor Fields March 31. The men’s team shut out William Paterson University 33-0 in the New Jersey state championship game, retaining the Rickerson Cup, while the women’s team swept its three contests to win the New Jersey Women’s Invitational.
 
But the rugby program’s most impressive work may have taken place off the field. For the third consecutive year, the tournaments were devoted to raising money for pancreatic cancer research and treatment, and this year’s donations pushed the cumulative fundraising total to more than $100,000.
 
That milestone was particularly meaningful for Stu Rickerson ’71, a rugby alumnus who is the namesake of the men’s championship trophy. Rickerson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer seven years ago and said that he’s lucky to be alive (five-year survival rates are in the single digits).
 
Team leaders first pitched the fundraising idea three years ago, and Rickerson said, “It was terrifically gratifying – it was meaningful and it was completely student-initiated.”
 
Pancreatic cancer had also touched the life of Elaine Bigelow ’10, captain of the women’s team at the time, who lost her father, Doug, to disease when she was a senior in high school. Bigelow now serves as the tournament director.
 

Donations support the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network; Rickerson has worked with the organization for several years and said that it “provides hope to the community of patients.”
 
The tournament weekend, launched by Princeton men’s coach Richard Lopacki in 2007, has become a staple of the spring schedule, drawing rugby supporters from across the Garden State. “It has become a real festival of rugby, the way Richard and the other coaches had envisioned it,” Rickerson said.