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Last September, on a cold and rainy Saturday morning in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, history was made for lacrosse in the state.

 After a nearly seven-hour cross-state drive from Cheyenne to Jackson Hole, the  the Cheyenne Youth Lacrosse Club faced the Jackson Hole Lacrosse Club in what is believed to be the first-ever matchup between two Wyoming’ high school girls’ lacrosse programs.

The CYLC, a US Lacrosse First Stick Program grant recipient, was founded in 2018 by Austin Rodemaker with the mission of growing the sport in Southeastern Wyoming. The First Stick Program provides qualifying programs free lacrosse equipment so they can provide affordable and accessible youth lacrosse activities to their participants. Last year alone, US Lacrosse awarded more than $2 million in equipment grants to seed teams like the Cheyenne high school girls and others having difficulty getting off the ground.

Rodemaker grew up playing lacrosse in Dillsburg, a tiny town in York County, Pennsylvania, before attending Air Force in Colorado Springs.

Wanting to give back to the sport he grew up loving, Rodemaker began coaching the local U15 program during his junior year of college. In his senior year, he became an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Air Academy High School, a Colorado girls’ lacrosse powerhouse.

After graduating and completing his training in California, Rodemaker was stationed in Cheyenne, located just over the Colorado-Wyoming border. Rodemaker was surprised to learn that there was not a local lacrosse program there, especially with the significant growth the sport had recently seen in Colorado.

After polling around town and finding that there was interest in the sport but no preexisting lacrosse program, Rodemaker officially launched the Cheyenne program.

“When I first started playing lacrosse, it was new in my town, so I wanted to provide an opportunity for the kids to try something new and introduce them to a sport they might not have known,” Rodemaker said.

The program first competed in 2019, starting with a high school girls’ team. To ensure the squad had enough opportunities to play, the CYLC developed relationships with programs in different states throughout the region to cobble together a schedule. Before and after the season, Cheyenne scrimmaged against Colorado-based teams. During the season, the team took advantage of jamboree-style events, traveling to face multiple teams from other states, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

Rodemaker was introduced to the Jackson Hole program through his interaction with the region’s lacrosse community. The JHLC was established in the late 2000s and has grown from just boys’ and girls’ high school teams in 2009 to a program that now includes boys’ and girls’ players as young as 9 years old. More than 300 kids registered to play this spring before the COVID-19 pandemic led to an indefinite suspension of the season.

With the tremendous growth the Jackson Hole has seen in recent years, there was an opportunity for the two programs to collaborate in the fall. When the coaches discussed scrimmaging each other, the foundation was laid for them to make history.

Unfortunately, during the first spring of the CYLC, their schedules didn’t align. In order to create a full schedule for its program and depending on the age group, the JHLC plays teams based in Utah, Idaho and Montana.

When the chance of competing in a fall ball weekend presented itself, Cheyenne and Jackson Hole locked it in. Wanting to engage the entire Wyoming lacrosse community, the JHLC hosted three scrimmages for the programs as well as an officials training program, which resulted in seven new girls’ lacrosse referees for the region.

“We are so grateful that [the CYLC] traveled all the way here,” said Megan Slater, girls’ director for the JHLC. “It was a fun weekend. The girls really embraced the fact that this was a true Wyoming game.”

Although history was made for girls’ high school lacrosse that day, it’s only the beginning for the sport in Wyoming, where Rodemaker sees the potential for signigicant growth.

“We’re building a tight community out here. If you’re in an area that doesn’t have the sport yet but are willing to lead a program, let us know, and we’re happy to help,” Rodemaker said. “I think it’s very close to exploding.”

LOCALLY GROWN: MOUNTAIN REGION

IOWA

Six different Parks and Recreation centers across Iowa were awarded starter kit grants designed to help them introduce lacrosse at a grassroots level. The Iowa Lacrosse Association is spearheading efforts to bring lacrosse to new communities in Des Moines, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

THE DAKOTAS

US Lacrosse Coach Development Program clinics in Fargo and Sioux Falls enabled 35 coaches to obtain Level 1 certifications. Many of these coaches were then able to assist with local TryLax opportunities.

UTAH

Despite a shortened season, history was made when the first-ever UHSAA sanctioned lacrosse games took place on March 3. High school boys and girls from Bingham, Olympus, East, West Jordan, Juan Diego and Corner Canyon helped usher in a new era of Utah high school lacrosse.

WYOMING

Lacrosse continues to gain steady traction in Wyoming, with new programming happening in all corners of the state. In February, Premier Lacrosse League players Brent Adams and Nick Ossello visited Rock Springs to host a clinic with the Sweetwater Lopes Lacrosse Club.