Nation's largest junior tournament fields 1,000 at St. Paul's School


June 19, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

In more ways than one, Baltimore County was the hotbed of youth lacrosse yesterday.

Temperatures blasted into the sweaty 90s again, of course. And about 1,000 players -- plus their parents and other supporters -- from as far away as Toronto swarmed the fields of St. Paul's School in Brooklandville for what organizers and participants agree has quickly become the nation's largest youth lacrosse tournament.

Lugging coolers, umbrellas and even dogs, the 50 teams of 5- to 14-year-old boys and their parents, friends, brothers, sisters and sometimes other relatives started arriving before 9 a.m.

The first objective: staking out shady places from which to watch the annual Cockeysville Invitational Lacrosse Tournament, which has doubled in size since the first one just three years ago.

"There's nothing anywhere like this in the country for kids this age," said Michael Goodbody of New Canaan, Conn., who drove into town Friday night with his 14-year-old son and was busy taking orders at the food tent yesterday.

"Cockeysville is viewed as one of the finest youth lacrosse groups in the country."

The Cockeysville Recreation Council program has indeed produced a number of college Division I players in the past, including Tim Whitely and Mike Watson of the University of Virginia. And Friday, the Cockeysville Junior A team of 13- and 14-year-olds added another state championship to its reputation after besting the Severna Park Green Hornets.

But this tournament has another reason for being, said John Boyce, chairman and organizer of the event, which continues until 3 p.m. today. "We're playing for the camaraderie that comes out of lacrosse," he said.

In a poignant moment yesterday, Mr. Boyce asked the players to remember a former teammate, 14-year-old David Morris, with whom many had been close friends. He died Jan. 1 in a skiing accident. This year's tournament is dedicated to him.

"He was a good athlete, a good player and had a good time,"

said Mr. Boyce. "The idea is to have fun and enjoy each other."

And that's just what is happening during the tournament.

"One of the important messages, besides how big it is, is the friendships that are created," said Gary Gill, who has three sons playing on Cockeysville teams. "You get to meet a lot of people, people you wouldn't meet otherwise."

He was referring particularly to Pete Garrison and son Austin, from Connecticut. The Garrisons are bunking at the Gill house for the third year and, during that time, they've become good friends, Mr. Gill said.

While gentlemanly competition -- all the players are boys -- prevailed yesterday, the sticky, humid weather certainly added another element to the contest.

"It's too hot," said Lois Lehrl, of Lutherville, who with husband Melvin was strolling across a blazing field to watch her grandson, 5-year-old Jeffrey Fowler, play in the matches for younger children. "We might not do it too long."

The players, however, had no choice. Water and ice proved to be as essential to the games as helmets and lacrosse sticks.

"I don't mind the heat," said 10-year-old Taylor Ermer, as he dumped bottles of water on his head during a match with a Howard County team.

Neither did Hannah, a golden retriever belonging to Chris and Mike Kaiser, who managed to stay cool with the help of her owners. "We drank our Diet Pepsis and then filled the cups with water for her," Mrs. Kaiser said. Meanwhile, son Timmy nursed a cherry snowball.

"Definitely, cherry snowballs are the most requested item," said Kate Berger, mother of a player, as she toiled behind the food counter amid watermelons and hot dogs.

Others in the crowd bypassed the food tent and set up their own tailgate picnics, such as the parents of the Severna Park Green Hornets team.

Nestled in a shady corner on the school's 75 acres, they set up a blue-and-white striped tent to cover a table laden with chicken, turkey, vegetables and pasta, as children tossed footballs and plastic discs.

"That's the sort of event this is," said Jay Whitelock, whose son, Bert, is playing in the tournament. "It's a party."

Mr. Whitelock said he will be back today, as will many other dads, even though it's Father's Day.

"I just can't think of a better way to spend it," Gary Gill said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.