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Lake Placid 2017 - 13 Reasons Why

By Dan Witmer, 08/17/17, 1:45PM EDT


Bonus RTD here… As has been the case the past few years, I’ve taken the opportunity to write MORE while I’m working at the Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament instead of less. Sure, days are long, internet connections are iffy at best, and bedtime (10 PM or so) quickly follows paying for dinner (often around 9:30 PM), but the images, smiles, and sheer beauty of the whole experience simply need to be shared.


So here I am, at the 28th annual LP Summit. I’m not sure, but I think this could be my tenth year on the staff. I started out as a common table worker, but quickly ascended up the ranks. For a while, now, my title has been Competition Director. I tell people, “George Leveille makes the schedules; my job is to see that the schedules are followed.”


Over the course of seven days, there are some 22 age and gender divisions which include over 250 teams. Games are played on 12 fields located at three separate sites.


On the first and final days of play, things are pretty quiet in my world. Pool play is usually the first two or three games, and the games are all scripted out in advance. But when things get busy – like yesterday – I spend most of the day in our white trailer, scratching out tie-breakers, re-seeds, etc. Some divisions invariably play out quite nice and orderly, while others get tricky. But that’s why they pay me the big bucks.


I got here on Sunday in time for our 4 o’clock staff meeting. It was great to see my sons - #1 son Brian had been up in Lake Placid for the past seven days, covering the Northstar Camp for LaxAllStars, and #2 son Eric, who had been back in Denver for the past month or so. On Monday, games started at 9 AM, and everyone played their first two games, and then continued through yesterday (Tuesday), when everyone played two more games. This morning, everyone will play their fifth game, and we’ll crown seven separate divisional champions.


On so many levels, this week – this experience – is certainly a highlight of my year. Here are 13 reasons why:


13. The beautiful drive up (and back)! I’ve written about this before, but the Watertown-Natural Bridge-Harrisville-Star Lake-Raquette Lake-Tupper Lake-Saranac Lake-Lake Placid route is truly one of my all-time favorite drives. I always look forward to that one passing lane just before Star Lake, the first view of Whiteface from somewhere around Piercefield, the Massaweepie Boy Scout Camp (I made a food delivery there when I was 14 years old – long story), and seeing how many cars are parked at the trail head for Ampersand Mountain. So may fond childhood memories!


12. Comfy accommodations! Rich Gross and I have shared a two-room condo for the past five years or so; it’s nothing fancy, but it’s got comfortable beds, solid showers, and everything you could ask for. Although we only cook our own dinner once or twice during the week, it’s nice to know we have everything we need to do it every night.


11. Perks! Where do I begin? This year, SLV employees were given a swag-bag that included a hat, a long-sleeve pullover, a long-sleeve T-shirt, and a short-sleeved T-shirt – we even got to pre-order our own sizes! They treat the core team to dinner one night, they provide lunch every day, and they give us a housing stipend for the week. Not a bad exchange for seven long days and seven very short nights!


10. Egg McMuffins for breakfast! By far the quickest favorite breakfast you can offer me! The LP MickeyD’s is on the way from the condo to the fields, so that works, and I saw a recent news story recommending an Egg McMuffin as a healthy fast food breakfast choice (“only 300 calories!”). I generally avoid the Golden Arches (and all the other competitors) as much as possible, but I’ll take an Egg McMuffin any time. I’m three-for-three so far this week; I just might go seven-for-seven.


9. Delivered lunches! Sometime between noon and 1 PM every day, someone asks me, “What kind of sandwich do you want?” If roast beef is an option, I’ll go with that, but the sandwich also comes with a bag of chips AND a huge chocolate chip cookie! Oh yes, there’s always a piece of fresh fruit, too…


8. Great dinners! After ten years or so, I still haven’t sampled all of LP’s great restaurants – but I’m going to keep trying. Sunday night it was Mis Amigos (I recommend the shrimp quesadilla!) and Monday night was our annual team dinner at Adirondack Steak and Seafood. It’s a little pricey, but SLV picked up the tab for us again. The bacon-wrapped sirloin was awesome, as was the spinach and artichoke dip (thanks again, SLV!). Last night it was another quesadilla at Players Sports Bar, a reliable “go-to” that has never disappointed. Goals for the remaining nights include Dancing Bears (haven’t been there in a while), Lisa G’s (same), and another Saturday night prime rib feast at the Cascade Inn (quickly becoming a Witmer family tradition)…


7. Remote score entry We’ve come a long way in the ten years I’ve been involved in the score reporting. Believe it or not, our table staff now uses their SmartPhones to report the scores after every game, and then those scores somehow show up on the LP web site! Magic! (or witchcraft!). Paper sheets are still used as back-up, but the operation has been working well all summer, speeding up the entire process. Ain’t technology great?


6. Alumni! I coached about 500 lacrosse players over my 28 years at Oswego State, and played with about 75 more. And if there’s one place I’m likely to meet some familiar Lake Lacrosse faces, it’s at the playing fields of Lake Placid every August. Three-day count? Vinnie Lang ’88 (Bville) works the score tables as well as plays every year, Kevin Couse ’91 (General Brown) referees up here every summer, and yesterday I ran into Jack Hufnagle ’93 (Yorktown) and Stacy Bauter ’89 (General Brown), who were both here to watch their children play. Over the next four days I’m certain to see plenty more – always a highlight of the week!


5. Hearing “Thank You” all week It’s hard not to smile and feel good about yourself and what you’re doing when people are complimenting you for a great tournament, for helping them figure out their team’s schedule, for pointing them to the correct field, or for having their credit cards/cell phones/lacrosse sticks/or helmets in our Lost and Found collection. I could get used to this!


4. The Summit Society I wrote about this a few weeks ago: “Camaraderie, Competition, and Respect.” It’s what makes the lacrosse world go round, and it’s the foundation of Summit Lacrosse Ventures. Respect the game, your opponents, and the officials. Compete and have fun. Make friends. Enjoy. Repeat.


3. The “Legends Coordinator” SLV has inducted 24 individual Lake Placid Legends over the past three years, and tomorrow we’ll be inducting two more – Greg Gephardt (Nazareth ’92) and Anthony Ortolano, former medical director of the tournament for more than 20 years. The SLV team wants me to serve as “Legends Director,” but I prefer the title “Coordinator.” My job is going to be to create more of a Legends group, raise money for the City Lax, Inc organization, and promote the growth of the game through the recognition of annual Legends inductees. In the coming months we will be creating a committee featuring some big names in the lacrosse world, and I’m looking forward to leading the effort. If you’re in LP, join us tomorrow night at 6 PM at the NEAF site for our 2017 induction ceremony!


2. Location, location, location Whiteface to the north. Mt. Marcy to the south. The Olympic ski jumps in the background of every good picture. The Olympic torch just the other side of the airport, and yeah – planes taking off and landing all day long just past the end lines of fields 1, 2, 3, 9, 11, and 12. Yesterday at 7:30 AM the morning fog was so thick you couldn’t see the ski jumps, and as teams warmed up for their 9 AM games, players were majestically silhouetted by the dense vapor. I hope someone got some great pictures! Even on cloudy days, the skies are simply beautiful. It’s a pretty unique, and absolutely gorgeous, setting for our favorite game.


1. A week spent working with my sons Even if none of us suit up to play, we’re still surrounded by lacrosse friends, teammates, parents, etc. The week gives Brian, Eric, and me a chance to share the experiences, sights, sounds, and stories of Lake Placid. Our roles continue to evolve, as Brian now carries a camera and a laptop around, freelancing his own schedule, topics, and subjects. Eric handles so many questions and responsibilities at the main tent, showing how a year of detailed preparation pays off come LP Week. And me, well, I’m just the lowly Competition Director, trying to make sure everyone plays their games as the schedule dictates. Sometimes we’re able to squeeze in a reasonable conversation, but lots of the time it’s a quick Q and A, a passing hello, or a wave. Best case scenario? Dinner together at the end of a long day, complete with stories and the accompanying laughs. It doesn’t get any better than that.


Drive carefully, everyone – and enjoy the rest of the week!


 - Dan Witmer