LAKE PLACID - There's a family reunion of sorts taking place in Lake Placid this week. And it's a massive one.
The 28th annual Lake Placid Summit Classic lacrosse tournament kicked off Monday, July 31 and runs through Sunday at the North Elba Athletic Fields, turning the Olympic Village into one of the biggest gatherings in the world for athletes who love the sport.
Not only will thousands of lacrosse players battle it out for titles simultaneously on multiple fields over a seven-day stretch, but they'll also be enjoying all that the village of Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains have to offer during their vacation stay. And joining the players are an army of family members, friends and fans who will be supporting on the sidelines, which is basically turning the area into a small lacrosse city during the tournament.
The tournament had humble beginnings when George Leveille organized the first Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse competition in 1990. There were seven teams competing in the inaugural event, and it's grown ever since. This summer, more than 250 teams with athletes ranging in age from school boys and girls to grandfathers will be in the mix.
"This tournament has become a beacon of the sport," said Kevin Leveille, who enjoyed an 11-year professional career and is one of the directors of the event. "Over the course of the year, this is something everyone looks forward to. It's a gathering place for a lot of lacrosse folks from up and down the East Coast, the Midwest, out all the way to the West Coast. It's evolved over a long period of time.
"My dad started the tournament in 1990, and I was here. It was a great event, it was not a big event, but there's always been the common thread over those 28 years. There's a feeling. There's a vibe. There's a buzz. It's contagious, and it happens immediately.
"You can see it come over people and you just know it's something they want to have on their radar, on their schedule every year. That's why it's not surprising that it keeps expanding and more people want to be involved with it."
Each August, the Lake Placid Summit Classic draws many of the world's best lacrosse players, starting with the scholastic divisions of high schoolers, who will eventually take their skills to men's and women's Division I college teams across the nation.
Two first-time visitors to Lake Placid are Ken and Lisa Diamond, who made the trip from their home near Philadelphia to watch their daughter Ali play for the Hoyas, a team of high school student-athletes who have committed to play for Georgetown University women's squad. Also making the trip north were Ali's twin brother and two of his friends.
"It's our first time up here," Ken Diamond said while watching his daughter play on Tuesday afternoon. "We're making a vacation out of this, and we're meeting all the parents from the Georgetown team. It's been fantastic. We went to the Lake Placid Lodge, did a boat tour, the kids did the bobsledding. We're on a vacation while watching the kids play."
"The scenery is amazing, and seeing all the teams play here is pretty impressive," Lisa Diamond added. "There's a nice team camaraderie. Ali gets to see the friends she's been making over the last eight years in lacrosse, and she sees them on all the different fields."
Kevin Leveille said the tournament has really taken off since the scholastic divisions were added a few years ago. There were a dozen teams participating the first year the youngsters took to the fields, and that number has currently blossomed to 48 boys squads and 48 girls clubs.
Scholastic play ran from Monday to Wednesday, with the adult divisions taking center stage the rest of the way. The top divisions, including masters and open, will have their championships take place Sunday, the final day of the tournament.
E.J. Little is a long-time lacrosse enthusiast who has traveled from his home in Seattle for the third time to play in the tournament, and he'll be tending the nets for Saber College, a team competing in the men's over-50 division.
"We are a collection of guys from Florida, Connecticut, Denver to the west coast who come out and play," Little said. "There are three of us from Seattle and even a couple of guys from California. I've lived in all four corners of the country and played lacrosse - in Florida, in Vegas, the West Coast. The interesting thing about playing old man lacrosse is you run into guys you haven't seen in 20, 25 years and they were guys you played on a team with somewhere.
"The venue brings me to this tournament, as well as the amount of teams," added Little, who sells cars in the Seattle area and also spends three months early in the summer as a fishing boat captain in Alaska. "Compared to Florida, or Ocean City (Maryland) or Vail, this tournament just has so many people at it and so many lacrosse players, and the town is very cool - a historical town. I like the caliber of play. This brings out the best players in every single age group."
"It's really such a great thing," Kevin Leveille said. "It's been really fun to watch from the outside and just see all these people interacting and having a great time on and off the field, and making new relationships that will last for a long time.
"You're in Lake Placid, you're in the Adirondacks to start, and that's a win. And then beyond that, it's different circles of families. It's our little family, then the staff family, then the participants family, then the lacrosse world family all rolled into one. It's really a cool, unique thing."
Tag(s): SLV In The Press