Lacrosse goes varsity in Eagle County
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Ethan Andree almost needed his lacrosse helmet Wednesday morning. And Andree wasn’t playing lacrosse ” he was studying inside Eagle Valley high school.
At about 9:30 a.m., Eagle Valley assistant principal Eric Mandeville announced over the school loudspeaker that the school just added its lacrosse teams to the official varsity ranks.
“I was jumping for joy,” Andree said. “I was pretty close to the ceiling.”
In his 10th year playing, Andree is one of the Eagle County ‘laxers’ who has seen the sport grow from an niche hobby to a Colorado High School Activities Association sanctioned varsity sport.
“When we started, it was all ages, boys and girls together,” said Andree, who will be a senior next year. “Every since middle school I was hoping and praying for a (varsity) team.”
Both Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain will have boys and girls varsity teams starting next year.
“It’s huge,” said Battle Mountain boys coach Bob Daino. “We’ve been working towards this for how many years?”
This past year, the four teams were considered “pre-CHSAA,” which meant they were still technically a club team, but could play other varsity teams and followed most varsity protocol.
“It has been a success in the pseudo-club scenario,” said Mike Gass, director of secondary education for Eagle County schools. “This is one more great opportunity for kids to get out and do things and represent our communities. It’s the new hot sport to have in the arsenal.”
With school approval and CHSAA approval, the teams just need to figure out a few financial issues.
“Things are moving forward,” Gass said. “It’s just a matter of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”
Moving up to the varsity level next year was essential for the survival of high school lacrosse.
“The understanding was at the beginning of the year (CHSAA) was giving us a year to get our feet under us,” said Mandeville, who has been a big part of the lacrosse program throughout all of its stages. “We said, ‘What if we can’t have a team?’ They said we’ll have to go back to club status. The disappointing part of that is we wouldn’t have much competition.”
Club teams can’t play varsity teams, and next year most of the mountain teams will be moving to the official varsity ranks. While there is only one classification for lacrosse, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley will play in a mountain-based league, with Aspen, Summit, Steamboat, and possibly Grand Junction and Durango.
“What’s really nice is we are all in the same boat with weather,” Daino said. “The Denver teams have a huge advantage with field time and getting out because their weather is much better. We’re fighting snow every week here, scrambling to find a gym or shovels.”
Through its club stages and this past year, the lacrosse teams have been self-funded, with help from the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District and fundraising. Teams at both schools have pledged to cover most of the startup costs.
“It’s not really a fair thing to take the same budget and divide it into smaller pieces,” Gass said. “That’s why we took a year to do the club thing and see the interest. If we’re going to go (varsity), we need to fund it at a level where it’s not impacting other sports in a negative way.”
Daino thinks it makes sense for the players to purchase their own equipment anyway.
“I’d rather they keep their own stuff, so that if they want to go to a summer camp, they have their own gloves and helmet,” he said.
Along with fundraising, both teams will be looking to train more officials for the upcoming season.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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