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A 'wicket' good time

West Fargo's Kevin Trowbridge takes a shot during croquet play with Fargo South. David Samson/The Forum1 / 2
West Fargo senior Jacob Mitzel passes out the mallets during player introductions before a recent croquet match with Fargo South. David Samson/The Forum2 / 2

Most people who dabble in croquet probably do so on lazy summer days at the lake, right after they get bored with bean bags and before they break out the Polish golf set.

There is a group of West Fargo High School students, however, who are taking this old-time yard game to another level.

Michael Hawley and nine other West Fargo seniors have created their school's first croquet team, which kicked off play Oct. 15, in a dual against Fargo South.

"It's a very gentlemanly sport," Hawley said. "You try to be quiet for the other players."

Though still in its infancy, the croquet league is drawing interest. At the match against the Bruins, Hawley said there were between 25 and 30 spectators during its entirety.

While outsiders may view croquet merely as a game, the West Fargo team takes things seriously. For example, instead of normal sports attire such as jerseys or team uniforms, they don suits or sport coats. Other teams have their own style, too.

"Fargo South wears sweater vests," Hawley said.

As far as play, points are tallied much like golf, where the lowest score wins. Though a team can have any number of players, meets usually pit six players from each team. The teams split into three players apiece, then play two rounds.

The object of the game is to get the ball through all the hoops, or "wickets" on the field, and come back to the start. The first person to do this becomes "poison," Hawley said, and then tries to get all the other players out. Normally, this involves knocking out the other team first before taking out your own teammates.

So far, the proverbial croquet ball is moving along, Hawley said, and he has high hopes for the future, including a possible "state tournament" this spring.

"We are slowly but surely getting more serious with it," he said.

Besides West Fargo and Fargo South, other participants include teams from Fargo North, Moorhead and Fargo Shanley/Oak Grove. Hawley said Bismarck, Minot, and Devils Lake also are considering starting teams.

Though there are grand future plans for croquet, the few local school teams currently play informal matches "whenever you can get a team together," Hawley said. As word spreads and interest grows, however, records and seeding likely will be kept.

But the reason for starting the league - having fun - hopefully will never change.

"The first guys to join the team were friends," Hawley said. "But as word spread, more guys got interested.

"Every member has a nickname."

For instance, Nick "El Toro" Staska and Curtis "Midnight" Crow took first place in their respective matches during last Friday's Fill the Dome Croquet Tournament at the FargoDome. Justin "Longshot" Shock grabbed second.

West Fargo placed second overall, beating out South, which took third with 23 points. The Oak Grove/Shanley co-op team snagged first with 19 points.

The teams raised more than $120 for Fill the Dome. The tournament likely was the last match of the fall, Hawley said.

"I am extremely proud of the progress that my team has made, so far," he said.