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Ski Town Shootout to showcase lacrosse

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff
Lacrosse players battle at last year's inaugural Park City Ski Town Shootout youth tournament.
20060606__1Sports

If lacrosse is the fastest growing team sport in America and one of the fastest growing youth sports in Utah, then Park City is reaping the rewards.

Next week, June 15-17, Park City will host the Ski Town Shootout. The event is only in its second year and has already doubled in size. Twenty-seven youth teams from eight states, Utah, Washington, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Texas and Colorado will converge on the fields at Ecker Hill International Middle School. Tournament play among U-12, U-13 and U-15 teams will take place all three days.

The event will also include a number of exhibition games, including girls U-15, boys U-17 and U-19 and games with Team Utah, the state’s all-star traveling development team. Utah Lacrosse Association (ULA) president Michael O’Malley says that these games are a great way to see some of the young lacrosse talent in the West.

"This is a great opportunity to watch more skilled players," said O’Malley. "You’re going to watch a higher level of play and see where Utah is headed."

Some of the players on the U-19 exhibition teams will be headed to college programs in the fall and will offer spectators a very fast-paced, aggressive brand of the game.

"The level of play they are going to see will be very exciting, very skillful," O’Malley said.

O’Malley says that the entire event is also a great way for parents and young children alike to learn more about the sport. Information about all of the ULA’s programs and the Park City Lacrosse Association development programs will be available throughout the tournament.

It will also be a learning experience for those already involved with the game. The ULA will hold a rules clinic for parents, and there will be a mix of youth officials and NCAA level lacrosse referees calling the games. The mixed set-up is designed to allow the younger, less experienced officials to increase their knowledge of the game.

According to O’Malley, the growth of the Park City tournament has to do with many factors. Traveling teams enjoyed the resort town atmosphere, with deluxe accommodations and a plethora of activities. Last summer’s event also featured three days of sunshine and the well-maintained Ecker Hill fields.

"Across the board, our participants love Park City," O’Malley said.

As one of the few western tournaments, O’Malley said that word of mouth brought most of the teams.

"It’s attention for teams across the West to square off in a great challenge," O’Malley said.

He hopes to eventually host an event as large as the Triple Crown softball tournament,. as long as the quality of the tournament isn’t sacrificed.

"We’ll grow gradually and assure we can without sacrificing the high quality experience," O’Malley said.

The event also brings in a fair amount of consumer dollars during the slower spring months.

O’Malley is aware that US Lacrosse, the United States lacrosse governing body, will be holding a sanctioned youth festival back East the same weekend and will be watching the Park City tournament to see if they could hold a similar sanctioned event in a Western venue.

It will soon be necessary to have two tournaments. For example, in Utah there are 50 U-15 teams and in Northern California there are about 100 teams and that’s just one age bracket. In Colorado and California, lacrosse is recognized as a sanctioned high school sport.

"We’re growing like a weed," O’Malley said.

For the moment, the Shootout offers smaller teams the ability to see how they stack up against some of the larger state programs.

"It helps out players to see how the game is played elsewhere and give them a goal to work for," O’Malley said.

O’Malley wants to invite the entire community to the Opening Ceremonies at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 16. Lacrosse is a Native American sport steeped in history, tradition and spirituality. In order to honor that, the teams involved will build a pyramid with balls representing all of the coaches, players and officials. Tribal West lacrosse store owner Fish Bartlett will dress in a shaman costume and place the final ball on the pyramid. Honorary face-off judges from the community with ties to the game of lacrosse will start off competition at 10 a.m.

There will be concessions available at the tournament, as well as booths selling lacrosse gear and other related products.

Further details and the tournament schedule are available at http://www.pclaxshootout.com. Information about general lacrosse programs for youth of all ages can be found at http://www.utahlax.org and http://www.uslacrosse.org.


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