Brandon Jacobsen (Team Black) battles Austin Krug (Team White) during the Thompson Okanagan Selects lacrosse tryouts at the Greater Vernon Athletics Park. (Lisa Mazurek/Morning Star)

Field lacrosse taking flight

They will never forget the 12 days of Christmas by trainer Jes Hatt of Hatt Fitness in Vernon.

They will never forget the 12 days of Christmas as presented by personal trainer Jes Hatt of Hatt Fitness in Vernon.

The gruelling strength and conditioning circuit came on a scorching August afternoon at the Greater Vernon Athletic Park for Thompson Okanagan Selects Lacrosse (TOS) field lacrosse tryouts.

Approximately 85 elite athletes from all over the Okanagan in the U13, U15, and U18 divisions, along with 20 evaluators and coaches, went through a three-hour intense tryout.

Colin MacGregor from Kelowna was trying out for a spot on the U15 team and found the 12 Days of Christmas a major 45-minute challenge,.

“It’s a good thing I have been working out — that was intense,” said MacGregor.

TOS is a non-profit lacrosse program in just its second year of operation and growing. Last year, TOS fielded one U18 team under the lead and vision of Kari Gares, North Okanagan Minor Lacrosse Association president, and Martin Gardner, general manager of the Okanagan Wild Intermediate A team.

The U18 team went to three out-of-town tournaments which resulted in major wins. They dominated the fields in the Calgary Field Day tournament going 5-0, and winning five of the six games in San Francisco against fierce competition where TOS players competed against players a few years older.

Zac Milne of Vernon made the U13 squad and loves the pace of field lacrosse.

“It’s fast, there’s contact and it’s fun to be outside,” said Milne. “It’s great training with lots of running and gets me in shape for hockey and box lacrosse. It’s good to challenge yourself against bigger and older guys. I have friends from Kelowna and Kamloops on the TOS team so it’s a lot of fun.”

Zac’s twin brother, JJ, was also selected to the U13s.

“In field there’s more space to run and make plays than box lacrosse,” said JJ. “I like playing midfield and the positions and zones are pretty cool. I’m excited to go to Vegas and California and play top U.S. kids. We did in box this summer with (pro league) Vancouver Stealth and it was a blast. I really like the travel.

Carston Disher and Noah Pearson of Vernon were also chosen for the U13s roster, while Liam Cyr of Vernon made the U15 roster.

To finish last season, several of the TOS players attended the All Canada Lacrosse Games in Oshawa, including Vernon’s Zack Gares, Kaden Doughty and Caden Colmorgen.

This was Gares’ second appearance at the All Canada Games. They were the youngest of their teammates but proved themselves worthy of their role within the TOS Club. For the 2017 season, Gares, Doughty and Thomas Mackiewich earned well deserved spots on the U18 roster.

“We are very proud of these boys,” said Kari Gares. “They worked hard, under very difficult conditions, to show their skill, techniques and strength to the evaluators and coaches.”

The three teams this year will be travelling to Las Vegas for the Blackjack Classic tournament in December, to California for the Adrenaline Challenge and back again to Oshawa for the All Canada Games. Mackiewich, a Grade 12 student at Fulton, will be attending a tryout Oct. 15 with the University of Nevada Rebels.

Cyr helped Team B.C. ground Ontario 11-9 in overtime in the national U15 field lacrosse final earlier this month in Saskatoon.

B.C. went 4-0 in preliminary play. Cyr is headed to the University of Maryland with the provincial team for a November scouting tournament.

“Even though these events are recruiting events, these tournaments will expose our teams to higher-calibre competitors and boost the Interior of B.C. into the light for athletic production,” said Gares. “TOS directors and program co-ordinators were busy interviewing and selecting coaches that fit into the program and who focus on player development.

“On top of the recruitment tournament exposure, the athletes selected to join the TOS program will receive over 20 hours of developmental coaching instruction, further strength and conditioning training with Excel Fitness and are given the opportunity to play with like-minded, similar skilled players and grow a camaraderie amongst the Okanagan associations. Having the local opportunity for these athletes equates to more training time and less travel for not having to attend practices and events in the Lower Mainland.”

Vernon’s Nolan Frame and Ryan Landels were recruited by the Bryn Athyn College Lions near Philadelphia and earned First Team all-conference honours in the North Eastern Athletic Conference.

Frame was named First Team all-conference at attack for finishing the season with 44 goals. Landels, a midfielder, was fourth in goals in the conference with 36.

TOS is still in its growing stages and is still looking for athletes who can perform at an elite level, corporate and small business sponsors, coaches and volunteers. Anyone interested can call Kari Gares at 250-558-3091.

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