A team of eight students from Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville will leave Thursday morning to compete in the United States Croquet Association's Collegiate Championship in Haverford, Pennsylvania.
The Eagles will compete against teams like the United States Naval Academy, Harvard, William & Mary, and other tradition-rich schools.
Oklahoma Wesleyan's program is just seven years old, but already becoming a powerhouse. The Eagles won national championships in 2011 and 2013, and placed in the top three each of the last four years. "We're the only team west of the Mississippi [River], so we like to go up there and show those easterners how to play this game," Oklahoma Wesleyan coach Wendell Thompson explained.
Thompson is the reason croquet came to Wesleyan. A three-time national champion himself, he started the team after retiring from a 34-year career as the school's library director. "I was in the cafeteria one night for dinner, and Mr. T was in there talking to people, trying to get them to come out for croquet," freshman Peter Pendergrass said. "At first, I thought he was kind of joking because I had never heard of anything like that before."
Thompson says croquet is a sport that anyone can succeed at with enough practice. "It doesn't require strength, [and] it doesn't require speed,” he explained. “It does require accuracy and strategy. If you can learn accuracy and strategy, you've got your game.”
Oklahoma Wesleyan hopes it has the strategy for national title number three in the upcoming tournament.