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Activities directors from Park, East Ridge and Woodbury held a meeting with the communities' girls lacrosse coaches, players and parents on Wednesday, Sept. 23 at Park High School to discuss what direction the schools will go regarding their girls lacrosse programs for the upcoming season.

Girls lacrosse meeting goes down without a hitch, boys decision up next

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One meeting down, one to go.

Activities directors from Park, East Ridge and Woodbury held a meeting with the communities' girls lacrosse coaches, players and parents on Wednesday, Sept. 23 at Park High School to discuss what direction the schools will go regarding their girls lacrosse programs for the upcoming season. The same meeting is set for the boys program this week.

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Last year, both the Woodbury and Park boys and girls each had one cooperative team. However, the addition of a third school -- East Ridge -- complicates things.

At the girls meeting, according to Park activities director Phil Kuemmel, over half of the 15 student-athletes on hand at the meeting preferred the three schools continue to go forward as one girls team. However, Kuemmel said the majority of the 20 parents on hand said the schools should form two teams -- a Woodbury and East Ridge cooperative and a Park-only team.

"We wanted to gather input, but also discuss the district's philosophy of trying to create more opportunities for kids, which is the whole idea behind the addition of the new school," Kuemmel said. "We also talked about the high school league and what we learned about the process from going through all this with the girls hockey program and what the high school league will allow."

A month ago the Minnesota State High School League denied District 833's proposal of a "double-cooperative" for the Park, East Ridge and Woodbury girls hockey programs.

With East Ridge not yet having enough players to fill a team, the proposal allowed student-athletes at East Ridge to play for their city's high school -- meaning Cottage Grove girls would play for a Park-East Ridge team and girls from Woodbury would play for a Woodbury-East Ridge team. The MSHSL cited a past precedent in rulings on similar scenarios in denying the district's proposal and a Woodbury-East Ridge cooperative was borne, with Park moving on by itself.

Now, the three activities directors will meet with the school's three principals and perhaps with District 833 assistant superintendent Dr. Randy Zipf to discuss the findings from the Sept. 23 meeting and all the options, before going to District 833 superintendent Mark Porter, the school board and the Minnesota State High School League, respectively.

Kuemmel said he hopes a final decision will be made by mid-November.

"The earlier we can come to a decision the better, in terms of scheduling games for the conference," said Kuemmel, who is in charge of lacrosse for the Suburban East Conference.

Usually, in all sports, teams will put together their schedule for the following season immediately after the season ends. However, all the lacrosse teams in the conference will have to wait to complete their schedules until a decision on Park, East Ridge and Woodbury is made. In addition, if the decision is to break into two teams, another coach would need to be hired. Last year, lacrosse teams began playing games the first week of April.

"There aren't a lot of lacrosse coaches out there, but I still feel very comfortable that, in whatever sport where we'd have to add teams, that we would be able to find coaches."

The head coaches of the girls and boys programs have differing opinions on what they'd like to see the district do.

Back in July, Park-Woodbury girls lacrosse head coach Scott Leonard said that part of the reason the new high school was built was to create more opportunities for kids to participate in extra-curricular activities and believes splitting the girls program does that.

"Overall, for the long-term growth of girls lacrosse in this area, we need to split," Leonard said in July. "Short term, it's going to hurt us and make us a little weaker. This will split up our talent. But, for the long term, the right thing to do is to do it now. Then, hopefully in three years, Woodbury and East Ridge can split and we can have three varsity girls lacrosse teams in this district."

However, at that time, Park-Woodbury boys head lacrosse coach Rich Limpert said he felt strongly that the boys program become a three-school, one-team cooperative, because he believes a Park-East Ridge cooperative team doesn't have the talent to compete -- creating a potentially dangerous situation in a fast-paced collision sport.

"You can't have little guys running around out there," Limpert said in July. "If you split the programs you're going to have eighth-graders and freshmen going against seniors from places like White Bear Lake, Stillwater and Mounds View that are big and strong and really, really good.

"I really don't want to see the, say, four guys going to East Ridge that are truly varsity players mixed in with a bunch of guys that should be on a prep team and just get throttled."

The initial boys lacrosse meeting between the activities directors, coaches and players will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30 in Park High School's large lecture hall.

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