Lacrosse players shine at SkyDome.
Some up-and-coming lacrosse stars once again displayed their skills at a big-time venue.
About 50 youngsters participated in an amateur lacrosse skills competition held on Nov. 29 at SkyDome. The event was part of the Canadian Aboriginal Festival.
This marked the fourth straight year a lacrosse competition has been held in conjunction with North America's largest multi-disciplined arts event.
A pair of professional lacrosse players--Tom Montour and Chris Driscoll--were on hand to help out with the event and to hand out the awards. Both Montour and Driscoll are members of the defending National Lacrosse League (NLL) champion team Toronto Rock.
Also lending a hand was Stu Montour, a Toronto Rock draft pick.
Although the skills competition was open to all players, most of those who competed were Native athletes.
"There's a lot of good talent here" said Tom Montour, who is gearing up for his sophomore season with the Rock.
Participants were divided into novice (9-10), peewee (11-12) and bantam (13-14) categories. Though there were some tyke (78) players who had pre-registered for the event, a snowstorm in parts of Ontario prevented them from making the journey to SkyDome the morning of the competition.
The skills event featured five categories, including one just for goalies. The top three performers in each event were presented with medals; the winner also received a lacrosse jersey. Several other prizes were awarded, including Toronto Rock tickets.
One of the events was a timed agility competition in which participants had to run through an obstacle course while performing certain moves. The clock stopped in that event after the player scored a goal into an empty net with the ball that was being carried.
There was also a shooting accuracy competition. Players had to try to hit a pair of designated targets attached to a net.
Other events included a hardest shot competition and a breakaway segment in which players had three chances each to score on a goalie.
As for netminders, their event consisted of making the saves on the breakaways.
Thirteen-year-old Kraig Maracle of Six Nations won the bantam breakaway category.
Initially he scored on two out of his three breakaway attempts. But a tiebreaker was necessitated because two others also scored a pair of goals.
The tie-breaker went four rounds before Maracle was able to score a goal--ironically on his brother Klayton. The brothers are half of the Maracle quadruplets. Brother Kasey also took part in the skills competition but sister Kassandra did not.
Although he also participated in the skills competition a year ago, Kraig Maracle said it was once again a rather nerve-wracking experience competing in the facility which is home to major league baseball's Toronto Blue Jays as well as the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts.
"I was still pretty nervous until I started concentrating on what I was doing," Kraig Maracle said.
Tom Montour had a bit of advice for those competitors hoping to follow in his footsteps and play pro some day.
"Work at it as hard as you can," he said. "If they love it enough, they'll get there."
As for Driscoll, who is entering his twelfth NLL season, he thought it was a unique experience for the participants.
"This is kind of awesome--being able to be at the SkyDome," he said, adding he never had the opportunity to compete in a lacrosse skills challenge while he was growing up.
Although their lacrosse seasons had wrapped up a few months beforehand, Driscoll was happy to see the participants come out to showcase their skills.
"Most of these kids probably play hockey," he said. "And they don't pick up a (lacrosse) stick much in the winter. So this gives them a chance to do so and they can come here and see how they compare to other kids at their level."
Even though he would have been happy to offer any tips, Driscoll admitted nobody was asking him for any.
"A lot of them are focused on what they're doing," he said. "I don't think they're here to see me."
BY SAM LASKARIS