A good old-fashioned lacrosse Shoot Out in Park City
When the Park City Ski Town Lacrosse Shoot Out was fashioned eight years ago, 16 teams from the western United States showed up to compete.
Last weekend, the 2012 Ski Town Shoot Out welcomed a tournament-record 93 teams and over 1,200 lacrosse players from nine different states.
Michael O’Malley, who is in his sixth year as tournament director, said he was part of the original organizing committee when the event got off the ground.
"I think by year three we saw the potential," said the Summit Park resident. "We got feedback after those first couple of years on what a great product we have. That product is a combination of a well-run and fun tournament and the benefits that come with visiting Park City and Summit County.
"It’s not only a great tournament, but it’s a great vacation destination."
There’s no question the Ski Town Shoot Out has benefited from the boom in lacrosse across the western United States. It is the fastest-growing team sport in the country, said O’Malley, who played the sport at a prep school in the New England area in the 1970s. He said there were fewer than 10 boys’ high school lacrosse teams when he moved to Utah in 1997.
"It’s emblematic of the growth of the game," he said. "I think we’ve got a rising market and we have a product that appeals to teams all over the West."
The tournament’s host fields included Quinn’s Junction, Ecker Hill Middle School and Willow Creek Park. The teams at the tournament were grouped into U-11, U-13 and U-15 boys’ teams and U-15, U-17 and U-19 girls’ teams.
Part of the boom at the tournament is due to the growth on the girls’ side of the game, O’Malley said. Twenty-six of the 93 teams at this year’s Shoot Out were girls’ or women’s teams.
"What’s great about this tournament is, it’s an opportunity for our boys and girls to benchmark themselves against teams from other states which are more mature in their lacrosse development," he said. "It’s been a personal satisfaction for me to see the improvement of quality of play over the years."
Julie Glusker, who is a coach for the Utah Mamaci lacrosse program, was the field coordinator for the Shoot Out during its first year. Glusker said she recalls having maybe a handful of girls’ teams that first year.
It’s been a different story since.
"It’s grown so much that we need our own venue now," she explained. "The proliferation is huge. We’ve also had some great growth from within the state and that’s put the tournament into a higher level."
Glusker’s Mamaci program had four teams in the tournament over the weekend; she coached the Mamaci Red team, a development team of 8th and 9th graders. She said the program had "quite a few" Park City athletes participating on their home turf.
She said the Shoot Out has some competition from the large-scale summer lacrosse tournament in Vail, Colo. For the local tournament to get to Vail’s level, Glusker said the event must figure out a way to attract more girls’ teams.
"We’re growing, but we aren’t yet the marquee tournament," she said. "We need to have a few more teams come in and compete at that kind of high level. That’s what coaches look for."
O’Malley said the biggest surprise of the tournament this year was the popularity of the Opening Ceremony, held at the amphitheatre at the Newpark Center in Kimball Junction. He said more than 1,000 athletes and parents participated in the event, which included a parade of teams and special-guest speaker and freestyle skier Grete Eliassen, who trains in Park City.
The tournament director reiterated that the Park City Ski Town Lacrosse Shoot Out is on the heels of the other popular summer tournaments around the country — and he’s noticed a considerable leap in the style of lacrosse year in and year out.
"We’re closing the gap," he said.
Becca Gerber, a first-term member of the Park City Council who is seen as bringing a younger person’s perspective to the Marsac Building, will seek reelection this year.