The reasons for Manatee High School to add boys and girls lacrosse as a varsity sport are numerous in the mind of Matt Faul.
The newly appointed president of the Manatee lacrosse booster club can rattle off all the talking points: Lacrosse is still the fastest growing sport in the United States, girls lacrosse in particular presents tons of scholarship opportunities with 13 percent of all varsity athletes advancing on to college, according to the NCAA.
What’s most important, though, is the already budding interest in the sport in Manatee County. The Manatee Wildcats, who provide club lacrosse for elementary and middle school players, have more than 200 players in the organization.
“It’s not one of those cases: if you build it, they will come,” Faul said. “We’re already here. We just need to build it now.”
Faul hopes lacrosse could come to Manatee High as soon as next spring. A massive fundraising effort will get underway Friday with a kick-off dinner at Manatee. Faul and the booster club will have to raise about $70,000 by Aug. 31 to have a team for the upcoming school year.
At Friday’s dinner, which still has about 50 of the 300 tickets available, the booster club will unveil the team logo and the club’s board, plus have a discussion about budget and fundraising ideas.
In the coming weeks and months, the booster club plans to host a golf tournament, a high-end black-tie dinner, and smaller events such as bake sales and car washes.
“Anything and everything,” Faul said. “It’s going to take the whole community to get this done.”
Currently the options for high school athletes wanting to play lacrosse a relatively limited, particularly for girls. Athletes can go to one of the several private schools in the area and boys can play for the Manatee Express club team. A Canes varsity team, though, would be the first public school program in the county.
This isn’t Faul’s only initiative, though. He’s also met with county athletic director Jason Montgomery with another idea: soft-stick lacrosse. The game, which uses softer balls and limits contact, can be a gym class staple, and there’s a grant which will pay for it.
“Even if they don’t have a team,” Faul said, “my goal is to have the entire county at least have the option.”
The Manatee Express high school boys club lacrosse team suffered its first loss of the season Saturday, but only after picking up a pair of wins earlier in the week. The Express’ 12-8 setback against the Mitchell Mustangs in Bradenton came one week after beating the Mustangs in New Port Richey.
Earlier in the week, Manatee, which is 4-1 in league games, picked up a win against the Clearwater Tornadoes on Tuesday in Clearwater and beat the St. Petersburg Green Devils on Wednesday at Palma Sola Park. The Express’ only other loss this season came against IMG Academy Blue, which doesn’t participate in the Florida Gulf Coast Lacrosse League. Manatee took on IMG Academy again Monday.
Manatee’s 4-1 record against FGCLL opponents is still good enough to keep them near the top of the West division standings. The East Lake Eagles boast a 5-0 record to lead the West, and the Palm Harbor Hurricanes share the Express’ 4-1 record. LaxPower.com’s computer rankings still peg Manatee as the No. 2 team in the FGCLL behind Palm Harbor.
The Express will get two chances to bolster its record this week. Manatee will travel to St. Petersburg for a rematch against the Green Devils on Wednesday and then host the Hurricanes on Saturday at Palma Sola.
Pro-Arm kart race
Pros will be trading in their open wheel cars, grand tourers and sports cars Wednesday for go-karts. Fourteen racers from the world of IndyCar Series, WeatherTech SportsCar Championships and Pirelli World Challenge will converge at Palmetto’s Andersen RacePark for the sixth annual Kart 4 Kids Pro-Am Kart Race. The event, which has raised more than $200,000 in its first five years, benefits Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg through ticket sales, pit passes, and live and silent auctions.
The list of professionals expected to attend includes four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, former 24 Hours of Le Mans champion Patrick Long, 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, and reigning 24 Hours of Daytona champions Jordan Taylor and Ricky Taylor. These six and eight others will compete against 56 paying amateurs at Andersen. Qualifying races begin at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday with the Pro-Am scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start.