Flour power: Shootout has grown into a giant
VAIL – On Fourth of July weekend 32 summers ago, four teams from around the state met on Wagner Field in Aspen to play in a pickup lacrosse tournament. The tournament was so rudimentary that the teams used flour to line the field – an unforgettable image that captured the essence of the state’s fledgling lacrosse movement at the time.”It was just a bunch of club players and college players that wanted to play in a couple more games,” tournament organizer Jim Soran said. “It was all pretty easy then. Aspen didn’t really have a rec department then. We talked to (the city). They gave us the field and that was about it.”Fast forward to the 2005 Vail Lacrosse Shootout, the offspring of that first tournament in Aspen, and it’s apparent that the state’s lacrosse scene has drastically evolved. Soran believes the shootout has played a pivotal role in that development.Starting today, this year’s tourney will bring 97 teams to Eagle County to compete in six different divisions during the course of 10 days. Counting officials, coaches, players and spectators, Soran estimates a total of around 2,500 visitors making their way to Eagle County.”I would have to say the tournament has had some impact on the growth in Colorado,” he said. “We’ve been able to bring in the top players in the Elite division before they had professional games where people could see it played at a high level.”Soran points out the recent success Colorado teams have had at the collegiate level as proof of the shootout’s lasting impact.Colorado State won national championships at the club level in 1999, 2001 and 2003. The University of Colorado also has a strong club program. The University of Denver’s lacrosse program continues to be a competitive team at the Division I level as well, as does Colorado College in Division III.As for a direct correlation to the shootout, players from CC and DU made up the majority of the field at the first shootout in Aspen in 1973.”Our whole mission has been to try and promote the growth of the sport through an all-star tournament where we reach out to as many geographic areas as we can to try and get teams in to play,” Soran said.The World Cup impact This year’s shootout field again boasts some of the best club teams in the nation, but arguably won’t be as strong as last year’s field. The reason for the drop-off is simple: the World Cup of Lacrosse started Thursday in Maryland and runs through July 2, thus creating somewhat of a quagmire for elite teams across the country.
Event organizer Michelle Secor said certain notables like defending Women’s Elite champ, Team Harrow, opted out of this year’s shootout because of the scheduling conflict.”(The World Cup) was always right after the shootout, but they changed it this year,” Secor said. “We lost a couple teams because of it and some individual players to be with their friends and stuff on different teams. People are either playing or they’re coaching the Cupinations, which is the high school portion out there, or they’re watching. Had it been out of the country, it might have affected our tournament less.”Regardless, Secor said, there shouldn’t be too much of a dip because of the shootout’s reputation as one of the best lacrosse tournaments in the western United States. The Women’s Elite field, unlike the men’s field, hasn’t filled up the allotted 16 spots, having only drawn commitments from 11 teams. But, Secor said, 11 is better than nothing.”Obviously, we’d like to have 16 womens teams, too,” she said. “(The World Cup) affected it. I don’t want to say drastically, because not everyone who is on the U.S. Team comes out here, but it did affect it to some degree.”==============The 33rd Vail Lacrosse ShootoutHigh School Girls Showcase, June 25-28Defending champs: Future EliteFormat: The 22 teams scheduled to appear will be broken down into seven pools. Each team will play one team outside their pool to determine any tiebreaker. Round robin play within pool will determine which teams moves onto the Gold Division, the Silver Division or the Bronze Division.Fields: EdwardsHigh School Boys U-19, June 25-28
Defending champs: Team New EnglandFormat: The 18 teams scheduled to appear will be broken into four conferences. The top two teams in each conference will play for the title in the Division I bracket, while the third and fourth teams will play in Division II. Fields: AvonMasters (35 and over), June 26-28Defending champs: Rusty RedFormat: The eight teams scheduled to appear will play a single elimination tournament with the quarterfinals scheduled for Sunday, the semifinals scheduled for Monday and the finals scheduled for Tuesday at noon. Losers will go into the consolation bracket.Fields: Ford Field, Vail Athletic Field and EdwardsSuper Masters (45 and over), June 26-28Defending champs: CVLCFormat: The 16 teams scheduled to appear will be broken into four conferences. The top two teams in each conference will play for the title in Division I bracket, while the third and fourth place teams will play in Division II. Fields: Ford Field, Donovan
Men’s Elite, July 1-4Defending champ: Colorado MammothFormat: The 16 teams scheduled to appear will play in a single elimination tournament for the championship, with losers vying for the consolation championship in the consolation bracket. The final is scheduled for the Fourth of July at 2 p.m.Fields: Ford Field, EdwardsWomen’s Elite, July 1-4Defending Women’s champ: Team Harrow (not present)Format: The 11 teams scheduled to appear will be broken down into three pools. Pool play will produce an eight-team single elimination tournament, with the final scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on the Fourth of July.Fields: Edwards, Vail Athletic Field ==============Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com.Vail, Colorado