Nine years ago, Port Angeles's high school club lacrosse players were state champs.
This spring, due to budget cuts in the P.A. school district, the entire program got cut.
But the future of lacrosse on the North Olympic Peninsula may be rosier now than ever before, says lacrosse coach Dave Farrington.
Foreseeing the death of the school lacrosse program, Farrington and others have formed the North Olympic Peninsula Mountaineers, a club lacrosse team that replaces the 16-year-old Roughrider team.
That means lacrosse players from across the Olympic Peninsula - players from Sequim, P.A., Joyce, Crescent, even Port Townsend - can compete against some of the 50-plus other teams in Washington state's division II high school conference come next spring.
"In some respects, (getting cut) is a good thing," says Farrington, who is helping oversee the transition from school lacrosse to a club team.
"The (Port Angeles school) board had to cut 10 percent of athletic programs," Farrington says. "Well, we were it - us and the C-squads. We've known it was coming for a couple of years."
That's why he and other local lacrosse advocates formed a booster club last year.
Now lacrosse coaches are able to draw from the entire peninsula but still play against other high school teams.
In fact, little has changed except the uniforms - blue and orange instead of traditional Port Angeles green and white - and the team name.
Instead of rooting for the Roughriders, local lacrosse fans can root for the Mountaineers.
Now all Farrington needs is players.
He's helping put on an
open lacrosse camp in late June at Roosevelt Middle School in Port Angeles to drum up interest from across the peninsula.
The camp, led by University of Washington head coach Jack Visco, starts Friday, June 26. Registration begins at 10 a.m. and the camp runs from noon-5 p.m.
On Saturday, the camp goes from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. On Sunday, the camp is scheduled for 10 a.m.-2 p.m., followed by a Port Angeles lacrosse alumni game at 2:30 p.m.
Cost is $25 per player but Farrington says there will be scholarships available
for those who cannot afford to pay.
"We want everyone to participate," he says.
A growing sport
Lacrosse has its roots in a centuries-old Iroquois practice called "baggataway" or "teewaraathon," an activity that was played to resolve conflicts and develop strong young men.
As it is known now, lacrosse is played throughout the East Coast in high schools and colleges but it still is making up ground out West.
Is it ever.
Farrington recalls that when Port Angeles formed its school team back in 1994, there were six teams in the lower B division, eight in the A division and zero women's teams.
In 2009, there are 54 teams in the lower Division II (Port Angeles' division), 27 teams in Division I and 47 women's teams.
Lacrosse is growing rapidly in the pre-high school ranks as well, blooming from three youth programs to more than 300 programs in the same time period.
The draw for many, Farrington says, is that lacrosse is the sport for many athletes who don't fit into the typical spring sports profile, perhaps not coordinated like a typical baseball player or as athletic as a track runner.
Port Angeles has one diminutive player who weighs only about 70 pounds but works hard and has earned a spot on the team.
The Mountaineers will have 20 games per season rather than the 12 they were allowed as Roughriders, with 10 each at home at Roosevelt and 10 on the road, traveling to places like Vancouver, Wash., Lynden and other spots across Puget Sound.
Potential players will have to pay for their own uniforms and some equipment and have to join U.S. Lacrosse for insurance purposes, but
Farrington says the costs won't be extravagant.
"We are working on keeping it to a bare minimum," he says.
Farrington is scheduling workouts throughout the off-season to garner interest and keep players in shape.
Lacrosse is not a sanctioned sport by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, although it does follow WIAA standards.
Instead, Washington state high school lacrosse players compete in the Washington High School Boys Lacrosse Association, although girls can compete with boys (in small numbers) or form their own team to compete in the Washington High School Girls Lacrosse Association.
Farrington's hope is that, in time, the WIAA will accept lacrosse as a sanctioned sport, giving it legitimacy and funding throughout
This April, the association's officials rejected a proposal to make women's lacrosse a sanctioned sport.
Next year, Farrington says, boys lacrosse leaders plan to ask the WIAA for approval as an official sanctioned sport, although Farrington says he knows it won't pass.
"We don't have enough officials," he says.
Since 1994, Port Angeles Lacrosse has won nine league titles. The Roughriders won the B-division state championship in 2001, were runner-ups in 2004 and took third in 2005.
"We've had incredible success in the short time we've been around," Farrington says.