Tough Saying Goodbye . . .
Dan Witmer |August 16, 2021
Depending on your terminology, the 32nd annual Lake Placid Summit Classic came to an end sometime last weekend. Compared to Summit Classics past, this one seemed to end with more of a limp, perfunctory fist-bump than a hugging embrace – but maybe that’s only fitting for these strange times.

My final days of the 2021 LPSC were spent not in Lake Placid, but in Albany. I posted my latest RTD blog describing Days Four and Five – Thursday and Friday – as I finished up my duties at the North Elba Athletic Fields and started my work at (mostly) Afrim’s and (much less at) Christian Brothers Academy.

Saturday went pretty smoothly, except for a lightning delay, which was the only bad weather I encountered the entire week. I was at CBA getting ready to watch some of my sons’ Savage TeamWear second game, and had just switched venue coverage with Blake Schierer, when we heard via our radios that we should expect the dreaded air horn sometime soon. Sure enough, moments later, the athletic trainers’ horn sounded loud and clear and three of us – Bob Testa, Sam Miller, and I – were responsible for clearing the fields.

Some people had to be told three or even four times, but overall, everyone complied better than expected. Within ten minutes, there wasn’t a single player, spectator, or official to be seen on the four fields at CBA. Brian and his teammates were just getting organized on their sideline when the blast came, and he told me later that some of his teammates asked him, “Who’s THAT guy?” as I started to clear the fields. His reply? “Oh, that’s my dad.” So much for first impressions!

Because the two sites are less than a half-mile apart, attempts were made to coordinate the re-start at both locations simultaneously. Our first 30-minute delay turned into 45 minutes, and then 60. In the end it was about 90 minutes, but we were able to get all the day’s games in as scheduled. No one on our staff wanted to postpone games until Sunday and then have to tweak the schedule of the final day.

So instead of wrapping up around 6 PM, we didn’t walk off the fields until after 8, but that’s the way it goes when you’re running multi-field, multi-team outdoor lacrosse tournaments; it just goes with the territory. Compared to other years’ delays and scrambles, this hiccup was very minor.

Sunday saw four champions crowned in the men’s and women’s Gold and Silver divisions. On the women’s side, Team HLA won the Gold title with a win over the Gansett Gang in the final game of the round robin format. In the Silver division, FCA finished with a perfect 4-0 record as they knocked off Team Eight in their final game of the weekend.

Over on the men’s side, pool winners GMH LC faced Team 91 in the championship game, and GMH came away victorious. In the Silver bracket, Cranx defeated Niskayuna alumni’s Diamond Dogs in the final, also finishing 4-0. Savage TeamWear won both of their games on Sunday, finishing 3-1 for fifth place (out of 14 teams).

Highlights at the Empire Summit Classic? Team Genny scored points, sporting jerseys that had “Lake Albany” – with the signature SLV logo featuring the Olympic flame set inside a lacrosse head – screened on their backs. I got to talk some friendly SUNYAC smack to the Dacks Lax team, a bunch of Plattsburgh alumni who were the defending Men’s Open – Silver champs from 2019. Oswego HS’s Brett McClelland was among them, having played and then coached for the Cardinals in recent years. I caught up with LP regulars Tony and Alec Tocco, and I gave my Summit Society congratulatory speech and T-shirt presentations to the four championship teams.

As I mentioned last week, the Witmers migrated from Lake Placid to Albany in three waves – I got there on Friday, Brian came down on Saturday (after reffing three games in LP that morning), and Eric arrived on Sunday morning. I was able to watch them play together – along with IC Sam Miller – as they played their final game of the weekend. As I’ve written before, it’s so great – and so rare – to be able to see Brian and Eric play on the same field together, and they didn’t disappoint. The banter was entertaining as usual, and the inevitable hidden ball attempt didn’t completely fail – photographer Casey Vock fell for it, as did the player defending Brian… at least, until it all blew up and Brian pretended to throw the ball toward the heavens. The ploy may have been busted, but the laughs and smiles resulted nonetheless.

And then, just like that, it was over. I guess, officially, the LPSC ended with championships on Saturday, but to me this Empire Summit Classic was a continuation of the main event. I mean, we had Oswego State home games at Liverpool HS, C-NS HS, Oswego HS, the unique Pathfinder Bank CSC, and even over on the Lakeside part of campus. We played away games at Irondequoit HS, Homewood Field, and Hobart – and to me, this relocation of the Open men’s and women’s division felt like those changes… just another little speedbump to overcome.

It’s my hope and prediction that, years from now, veteran LPSC participants will look back at 2021 and say, “Remember that one time, when…?” about this year’s change of venue. Like tales of Sunday morning games at Barkeaters, or trying to find the fields hidden from view on Military Road, or the infamous campfires on the Horse Show Grounds. Afrim’s and CBA will be just an asterisk…

Brian and I drove home in his van, and Eric got home a few minutes later. Between the three of us getting home after a week or more on the road, we put the washer and dryer to work. For two nights, there were four of us under one roof. Eric worked from home all day Monday (on payroll!), packed up his car, and left on Tuesday morning. Brian packed all day Tuesday and we took him to the Syracuse airport on Wednesday. By Thursday, we heard from both of them – Eric and his dog Frisco had successfully arrived in Denver, and Brian had navigated his three flights and had made it to Prague.

I procrastinated writing this RTD piece all week. In all honesty, I didn’t want to put this 2021 LPSC to bed – it was all too much fun! And for the first part of the week, I felt like it hadn’t really come to completion – not yet, anyway. I mean, if we didn’t all get together at the Cascade Inn on Saturday night for prime rib and our annual Paper Plate Awards, then… is it really over?

Regrettably, yes, it is. SLV emails have blasted dates of their 2022 tournaments this week, and I’ve got my calendar marked. On Friday, I received my paycheck in the mail (thanks, Eric!). I’ve made it a point to “like” all of Casey Vock’s 24 championship photos on Facebook, and I’ve already received a Legends nomination for 2022.

So, it’s time to finish the final chapter, time to close the book. I hope you’ve enjoyed your LPSC 2021 experiences, either in person or maybe vicariously through me and these RTD reports.

But don’t worry – there is more lacrosse on the horizon – college fall ball, local Hall of Fame inductions, and fall scholastic tournaments. The PLL post-season begins this coming weekend, and the Salt City Eels are making plans to travel to Lakeland, Florida next month for the IBLA national championships (yes, Brian booked a flight from Prague to Orlando and I’m planning to combine yet another Road Trip Dad journey with a visit to my parents).

In the world of RTD, there is no off-season – just different seasons.

Thanks for reading! Please, drive carefully, 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.