Lake Placid Preview
Dan Witmer |July 31, 2021
I’ve been waiting a long, long time to write this….

In case you didn’t know, the annual Lake Placid Summit Classic opens up on Monday morning, but in reality, the games have already started. What began as a small, seven-team tournament at the Horse Show Grounds in 1990 has, over the years, morphed into a multi-faceted mega-tournament that now has something for everyone – young and old, boys and girls, men and women.

And this year it seems to have expanded even more.

Full disclosure – since approximately 2007 or so, I’ve been an employee of the LP tournament, the showcase tournament operated by Summit Lacrosse Ventures, LLC, and I am one of its biggest fans, so I just might be guilty of being a bit subjective now and then. Jus’ sayin’. One of my sons works full-time for SLV, and the other has worn a lot of different hats at their tournaments, and is currently employed as a referee. So, there’s that…

Although my “Independent Contractor” contract doesn’t start until Monday morning, SLV kicked its Big Lake Placid Week (which, let me tell you, is even better than Shark Week) on Friday – in Albany, no less. The Northstar Showcase, a premier event for girls that has been run at Lake Placid’s Northwood School in years past, took place last week at Afrim’s in Colonie on Wednesday and Thursday. Coaches from Arizona State, USC, Northwestern, Marquette, Florida, and Albany were among those expected to attend.

And right now, as you read this, the successor to the High Peaks Classic, which hosted about eight men’s open teams in late June in years past – now dubbed Happy Lax – is happening right now at Christian Brothers Academy, almost across the street from Afrim’s. Brian registered a young Achy Bones team (how’s that for an oxymoron?) comprised of various friends and strangers, and they played two games yesterday and have two more today.

After all the fun in Albany, the action moves up to the North Elba Athletic Fields, which requires a turn on to Recycle Cirle off Route 73 and then a right turn on to Lacrosse Fields Way. Ninety-three teams will open play on Monday as the first three days of the Lake Placid Summit Classic are for the younger set.

Also on Monday, the USA Sixes Evaluation will take place at the NEAF site, as USA Lacrosse continues to test both the rules and the potential roster for the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama. If you’re not familiar with the World Games, they are contested every year after the Summer Olympics, and feature sports not typically offered in the Olympics. This is the event to which Ireland Lacrosse yielded up its berth to the Iroquois Nationals, which made all the headlines last year. While the “Sixes” version of lacrosse looks like it’s going to happen at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, the World Games in Birmingham might very well be our first look at the hybrid model played internationally. If you’re anywhere near Lake Placid next week, be sure to check this out!

Both men and women will be on site at Lake Placid for three days of evaluation. Coaches for the USA mens’ teams include Bobby Benson, Tony Resch, Andy Shay, and Regy Thorpe, and among the 23 men’s invitees are Michael Sowers, Connor Shellenberger, Sergio Salcido, Cody Radziewicz, Adam Ghitelman, and Ryder Garnsey. On the women’s side, four of the players selected for the evaluation are from Syracuse University – Sam Swart, Emma Tyrell, Meaghan Tyrell, and Emma Ward.

On Wednesday afternoon the pace slows a bit as the older men’s and women’s divisions take over the fields. Eighty-six teams of women’s Masters (don’t ask or reveal ages!) and men’s Masters (35+), Grand Masters, Super Grand Masters, Ultra Super Grand Masters, Past Masters – you get the idea – with age groups all the way up to 60-plus – come in and compete (kind of) like the young kids, making for some very entertaining lacrosse. Those age groups will play through Friday and Saturday, with multiple championships to be determined.

Meanwhile, with an overflow of women’s Northstar commit teams wanting to be a part of the action, five teams of high school girls already committed to D-I colleges and universities will take to the fields in Saratoga for two days of intense competition. SLV is dubbing that event Northstar Happy Lax.

While all the older men and women are around, the 2021 Legends of Lake Placid induction ceremony will take place on Thursday evening at the Vendor’s Village at the main site. Part of my job as an Independent Contractor (IC) is the role of Legends Foundation Director, so this is one of the week’s biggest highlights for me. Despite not having a 2020 Summit Classic, we still inducted ten new Legends last summer, and this week they’ll finally get their in-person recognition. I wrote about them last fall, when I resumed writing my RTD pieces, but here’s the full slate once again:

2020 Legends of Lake Placid

Paul Lamparski and Tim Shurr – Dan Spillett Award
Holly Healy – Jim Muhlfelder Award
John Keenan – Larry Piatelli Award
Dave Brant and Mark Burnam – Travis Solomon Award
Jeff Jacques – Tom Pillsworth Award
The Frank Family – Lax All Stars “Grow the Game” Award
Jeff Coulson and Connecticut Valley Lacrosse Club (CVLC) – Paul Rose Award

With such a full slate of 2020 inductees and a very uncertain winter planning for this summer, we decided to back off on 2021 inductees a bit, and we ended up with just two more Legends this year – Mike Branski and Spike Decker are both going in as co-winners of the 2021 Larry Piatelli Award.

Full bios and head shots are now up on the LP Legends website if you want to know more about these recipients of Placid’s highest honor. Congrats to one and all!

OK, are you keeping up with all of this? There will be a quiz…

Due to restrictions placed on this year’s Summit Classic by the Lake Placid community (I’m not exactly sure what official group said what), the headliners of the traditional Summit Classic – the men’s and women’s open teams – are scheduled to play their entire slate of games in Albany this year, with games scheduled for both Afrim’s and CBA on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. People have been understandably upset with the decision, but those are the cards we’ve been dealt. SLV has lost some teams, picked up some new ones, and, as of the other day, some 36 teams will be facing off in the shadows of the Albany Airport instead of the Olympic ski jumps and Whiteface this summer.

As an IC, I agree with everyone who says it’s just not the same. The iconic location has been and always will be one of the Summit Classic’s best selling points. But hopefully it’s just for this year. I mean, after all we’ve been through these past 18 months, you can’t expect everything to be just the way it was before, right? The LP tournament is back, games are happening, and good times are already being had…

I’ve been told that I’ll be moving from Lake Placid down to Albany for the final three days, which of course comes with mixed reactions. If I had my druthers, I’d stay in Placid through Sunday along with all the men’s and women’s open teams – but that’s not what my bosses are telling me. For whatever reason, the SLV brass wants me (which is always good!) to move down to Albany – which is also good – so I’ll go wherever they want me to.

When I was in Lake Placid in June, it was a mess. The streets were torn up, businesses were closed or under repair, and many of the places that were open were operating with shorter hours or smaller staffs. We might all have longer waits and fewer options when we go out for dinner.

And maybe I won’t see quite as many games as I have in the past; maybe I won’t see quite as many friends, former players, former opponents, and otherwise familiar faces. But I’m pretty sure I’m still going to see many, many people I haven’t seen in at least two years – and that’s why I’m really looking forward to this year’s week in Lake Placid (and Albany).

Smile, everyone. Enjoy lacrosse again. Game on!

Drive safely – and stay safe, stay smart, and stay kind.

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of three books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – The Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  … and piles to go before I sleep – The Book of Wit is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore. His third book, The Best of RTD – A Lacrosse Coach’s Handbook, has just been released at Amazon.com. It contains more than 55 weekly Road Trip Dad blogs spanning 2012-2020, featuring Xs and Os, highs and lows, and even some Dos and Don'ts, and plenty of advice for coaches of all levels.