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Why I'll Always Remember the 28th Lake Placid Summit Classic

By Dan Witmer, 08/17/17, 2:00PM EDT

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There’s no shortage of stories, photos, Instagrams, and Facebook memories of last week’s Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament. If you were there, you’ve spent the past few days not only recovering, but sharing your great times with others. If you weren’t there, you’ve probably read at least one summary or swiped through a few photos.

 

This account might be a little different. It’s not intended for those who were there or those who weren’t – it’s instead for my regular RTD readers, the ones who know me, my sons, my background… the ones who’ve been reading RTD for a while (thank you for your loyalty!)…

 

You know, for instance, that I’ve been involved with the LP Summit Lacrosse Tournament for maybe ten years or so. You know that I started out as a score table worker, along with my sons, but that these days my official title is “Competition Director.”

 

Honestly, the past tournaments are all a blur. I can’t say with any certainty what year I started working up there, except I know that it was the first year the North Elba Athletic Fields were used. 2007? Maybe 2008?

 

When I do try to count the years backward, I attempt to name all the motels I’ve stayed in, but since I’ve been staying in a condo the past X (amount of) years, I’ve definitely lost track. I know Brian stayed home the first year that Eric and I went, and that he missed 2015 when he was in Australia and 2016 when he was in Europe. But he can’t tell you how many years he’s worked, either. And Eric’s always asking, “How many years is this?” too.

 

The blue sky days and the wash-outs. The hot days and the cold. The addition of the high school divisions, the women’s masters, the MLL Alumni Game, and this year, the UWLX championship.

 

There were 22 divisional champions crowned last week. Please don’t ask me who won the Men’s 30+ title.

 

Still, there are four reasons why this year’s LP Summit will ALWAYS stay fresh in my mind:

 

1). The Miracle on Grass. Don’t like the sound of that? Fine. But the resuscitation of John Sussingham was nothing short of miraculous. When he went down on Wednesday afternoon, he was immediately attended to by two of the tournament’s trainers, Anthony Benyarko and Anthony Erz, nearby doctors who were playing for teams in the oldest age divisions, EMT Mellissa Furnia, and others; he was in the best of hands from the minute he felt chest pains. I will never forget the scene – the CPR I’ve practiced but never used, the professionalism, the urgent but orderly commands and cooperation of everyone at the scene, the cheering words of encouragement, and – maybe more than anything else, the photos of John the next day, the first with a big smile and a thumbs-up from his Plattsburgh hospital bed, the second with John standing in his hospital room with his wife, son and daughter, and two brothers…

 

 

 

As the younger age groups moved in on Thursday and Friday, many hadn’t heard about Wednesday’s excitement, but as they learned about what had happened, their jaws dropped in disbelief. A reporter from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise wrote a pretty thorough summary, and the brass of Summit Lacrosse Ventures gave me the green light to write my own account, which occupied almost all of Thursday. I called John’s wife, checked facts and names with head athletic trainer Jim Case, and promised my JustLacrosse editor a story.

 

Unfortunately, I got distracted enough to screw up my first, second and final drafts, especially when I sent a final draft with no attachment, and I messed up photos. Good intentions led to some confusion, but I think we came out of it OK.

 

2). The fourth annual Lake Placid Legends induction ceremony. This was Thursday night, after I spent most of the day playing newspaper reporter and ignoring the incoming scores, seedings, and tie-breakers. Tournament founder George Leveille had asked me to help with the ceremony, and we scrambled – what with all the other things going on around us – to get organized enough to celebrate the induction of Greg Gephardt and Anthony Ortolano. We worried about the weather, as all we had planned for cover was a 30 x 30 tent next to Sugar Shakers. We talked about the possibility of moving the festivities down to the Horse Show Grounds, but around 4 o’clock we decided we’d press our luck.

 

We had a background courtesy of Lake Placid’s John Morgan, a sound system provided by Syracuse’s Mike Holdridge, and – out of nowhere, just like that – a full rainbow from Mother Nature! We also had a special guest – EMT Mellissa Furnia was our guest of honor, and we gave her an LP MVP backpack for her life-saving efforts the day before. Since Friday was her birthday, we also had about 200 people sing “Happy Birthday” to her.

 

Then George introduced Dom Starsia and Mat Levine, who said a few words about their respective programs, Harlem Lacrosse and City Lax, Inc. Both raise money to provide not only lacrosse, but structure and guidance to youths in urban settings. SLV is working on a program in Albany that is supported by City Lax, and the long range plan is to create a model that can be implemented anywhere. George has asked me to help connect the dots between the LP Legends and SLV’s role in the growth of the game, so I got to hold the microphone, too!

 

Finally, we formally inducted Greg and Anthony. Jason Gephardt said a few words to introduce his brother, and then Jim Case did the same for Ort. Greg and Ort gave short acceptance speeches, and family and friends cheered as they were presented Legends polos, engraved lacrosse shafts, and beautiful lacrosse prints.

 

Donations earmarked for City Lax, Inc were requested, and the crowd responded with encouraging results, as almost $1,000 was collected. We were hoping for maybe 50-100 people and maybe $500, and instead we doubled our goals. The event was deemed a great success – not bad considering that last year I was in the trailer/office recording scores during the ceremony and missed the entire show!

 

3). The deluge on Friday night. I think we had three weather-related evacuations in the first four days, but they were for a minimal 30 minutes or so (one of them seemed so unlikely, as the sun was shining while we were trying to clear the fields of players and spectators). But Friday’s schedule-halting monsoon was something special. There was little warning, but at approximately 6:10 PM, just as we were wrapping up the 5:15 games and getting ready to start the final round of 6:30 contests, the wind picked up, the skies got dark, and the rain started. When thunder and lightning hit, the air horn went off and we cleared the fields in no time. Within minutes, the rain picked up to epic proportions, and we had about 12 of us crammed into that little white trailer.

 

Discussion ensued about what to do. Wait it out? It didn’t look like it was going to let up anytime soon, and we were afraid players and teams had already left the site. Declare the games over? Re-schedule for the time remaining to be played the next morning? But when, and on which fields? We had a very full slate of games already planned for Saturday…

 

We needed to know the game status from all 12 fields. Our table crews had been instructed on what to do in such a situation, but now they were put to the test. The workers were sitting in cars out in the parking lot, but had they turned in their field reports before scrambling to safety?

 

Believe it or not, they had. Within minutes of attempting to track down all 12 score sheets, we had them all! We couldn’t believe it! In a very short time, we realized we only had three 5:15 games that needed to be completed. Two were championships – the 50+ and the 55+ games were within minutes of completion; one was a one-goal game with about 11 minutes remaining and the other was a four-goal game with about 3:30 left to play. The other game, Brian’s Graph-Tex 18+ team vs. the G22 team, was tied with just 40 seconds to play. There were also about five 6:30 games that hadn’t started yet. All eight were re-scheduled for the first thing Saturday morning – 8:30 AM. The rest of Saturday’s slate was pushed back an hour.

 

Amazingly, every game was played as scheduled on Saturday. There were no no-shows. A few teams might have missed the message, but that only resulted in them showing up an hour early, which didn’t hurt any.

 

Like Wednesday afternoon (and maybe Thursday evening), Friday could have been chaos. Instead, everyone did exactly what they had been told to do and we managed to save the schedule. When it all comes together like that, it’s pretty special.

 

4). Watching my sons work. Like I said at the start, this is personal…

 

Brian’s first job might have been when he was 10 or 11 years old, when he started his own stick-dyeing service, thanks to the tutelage of Dan Holdridge at the Hobart Lacrosse Camp. Then he got paid to keep the clock and scorebook at junior high basketball games by his 7th-grade lacrosse coach, Ric Pollard. He’s had an eye-catching resume ever since (Monster rep at SUNY Brockport, BOCES substitute teacher, summer maintenance jobs at Oswego State and Oswego City Schools, and Brockport Student Government vice-president, to name a few). But it was Drew White and the ULL that hired him to keep score, clock, and penalty time at Maxwell Park on Thursdays and Sundays when suddenly he seemed to know the names of every player and referee – and that’s when the doors really started opening.

 

He went up to Lake Placid, first for lacrosse camp as an 11 or 12 year-old, and then to work with Eric and me at the Summit Tournament when he was about 18. He worked and somehow managed to get himself on the Patriots’ open team. The next summer he met Matt Rowley and played for Team Steak, and with Matt’s help, landed a summer internship with 3dLacrosse in Denver the following summer. While in Colorado, Brian connected with Bill Kaden ’03, who was teaching at the University of Utah at the time. Bill put him in touch with the Ales Hrebesky Memorial Tournament in Prague, and the Denver World Games in 2014 led to his trip to play and coach in Australia. Subsequent connections have led Brian to Italy, England, Poland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and a job with LaxAllStars.

 

In 2014, his most recent summer at Lake Placid, Brian worked his way up the ladder and helped run the team of 30-40 score table workers. This year, he returned with a Media Pass, working for LaxAllStars, taking pictures and doing stories for SLV and his LAS website.

 

Eric has the perfect attendance award, going back to whenever it was when we first showed up on the LP scene (NOTE: when Brian was a camper and I was a staff member at the LP Lacrosse Camp, Eric was too young to participate, but I brought him to the Northwood School anyway. He spent the week reading Harry Potter books on the sidelines, and every night I treated him to a different location for ice cream – that was his introduction to LP!). Eric also worked for Drew at Maxwell Park, and we joke today that it was there and then that his real talents were honed.

 

Eric also worked his way up the responsibility ladder at the LP Summit, and each year it seemed his role was at least a little larger than the year before. He loved working the score tables, but he also learned all the referees’ names, joked with Hall of Fame and national championship players, and passed his enthusiasm and attention to detail along to his fellow scorekeepers.

 

Things fell into place nicely this past fall when he was hired full-time by SLV. Corporate HQ had moved from Chicago to Denver, where, coincidentally, Eric had moved over the summer.

 

So this was Eric’s first summer working full-time for SLV, and this was Brian’s first year working for SLV at the iconic Lake Placid Tournament. And I got to watch them both at work.

 

“They’re so different!” someone would say. And in some ways, they are.

 

But in many more ways, they’re very much alike. And as their Dad, watching and working alongside them, I couldn’t be more proud of both of them. That’s something to remember, and cherish, forever.

 

Drive carefully, everyone!

 

 - Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu