VAIL — You may have noticed a lot of kids with lacrosse sticks running around the village this week. A keen eye may have even suspected there were more lacrosse kids in town this year than ever before.
According to tournament organizers, approximately 2,000 youth athletes participated in the Vail Lacrosse Tournament this year, up quite a bit from years past.
“We had probably about 60 to 70 percent growth from last year,” said Tournament Director Mark Foster. “2014 was a great year for the tournament, very positive.”
TEAMS FROM ACROSS U.S.
Teams from Texas, California, North Carolina, Minnesota, Washington, Kentucky, Utah, Idaho and Maryland all visited Vail for the tournament.
“It’s was great to be in the mountains,” said Nick Branble, of Warwick, Maryland. “We had a lot of fun.”
Branble was one of roughly 750 people visiting Vail from Maryland for the tournament, Foster said, thanks to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Lacrosse Ministry, which was out in full force.
“They really enjoy what the mountains have to offer when they’re here,” Foster said. “They went up to 4 Eagle Ranch, went rafting and supported a lot of great local businesses along the way.”
The Vail Lacrosse Tournament is the only national youth lacrosse tournament held in Vail. It’s held every year a week or so before the Vail Lacrosse Shootout, an annual adult tournament that has been in Vail for more than four decades.
Sam Cofield, of Denver, said he looks forward to the Vail Lacrosse Tournament every year.
“I love it, It’s a lot of fun. Love the scene, love the place, fantastic tournament,” he said.
Cofield was able to end the tournament with a win this year, as his team, War Cry, defeated Team Colorado, 5-4, in their final match Thursday.
With local lacrosse fans now turning their attention to the Vail Lacrosse Shootout, set to start June 29, a question on many people’s minds is how the construction at Ford Park will affect the 42nd annual shootout, which uses the fields as a major hub of tournament activity.
Vail Lacrosse Shootout spokesperson Garrett Fitzgerald says Vail couldn’t have picked a better year to plan the renovations.
“Our tournament was scaled down this year because of the World Lacrosse Games in Denver in July,” he said. “So, it actually coincided perfectly for us.”
Fitzgerald refers to The Federation of International Lacrosse World Lacrosse Championships, the biggest event in the sport. It’s a quadrennial event, like the Olympics, and Denver won the bid to bring it back to the U.S. after it was in England in 2010, Canada in 2006 and Australia in 2002.
“A lot of the parts of the tournament that we host on a yearly basis, being the older divisions — over-30, over-40, over-50 and over-60 divisions — are all going to be taking place in Denver this year,” said Fitzgerald. “But the World Games are bringing several international teams to the state this year which will compete in the Vail Lacrosse Shootout, so there will be a very exciting and high level of play in Vail.”
The Australian national team, the Israeli national team and the New Zealand national team will all be in Vail competing, and organizers are hoping to schedule an exhibition game with the legendary Iroquois National Lacrosse squad and their stars, the Thompson family, who have set multiple NCAA lacrosse records for scoring.
“Even though it’s a reduced schedule for us, it’s the first time in the last six or eight years where we’ve had real international teams come to compete,” Fitzgerald said.
Learn more about the Vail Lacrosse Shootout at www.vaillacrosse.com; and visit worldlacrosse2014.com for more information on Denver hosting the Federation of International Lacrosse World Lacrosse Championships in July.
Vail Daily intern Eleanor Nesbit contributed reporting on this story. Vail Daily staff writer John LaConte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.