Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs I was flipping through a 2006 issue of At Home in Steamboat Springs magazine, and somewhere near its middle is a photo of two teens donning lacrosse gear.
The story goes on to talk about the budding sport of lacrosse in Steamboat Springs. As we’ve seen during the past five years, that story was spot-on given the way lacrosse has spread here in Steamboat.
But perhaps the real story is those two small guys in lacrosse gear.
Yes, Andy and Jake Flax — maybe 5-foot-6 and 120 pounds each in the picture — have been the cover boys for Steamboat lacrosse.
The two picked up the game in 2002 at a camp run by high school coach Bob Hiester.
To date, they’re the most successful and intriguing stories from Steamboat lacrosse.
Sure, others have gone on to play in college. But the Flaxes’ story is one that demonstrates the power of the game.
With just five years of experience the two headed to Colorado State University to play club lacrosse. Understand that the Rams’ club program is rooted in success.
The team has four national championships and six conference championships. Even at the club level, the team could probably fare well against many Division I opponents.
Just this year, the team lost 11-7 to D-I Air Force. It beat Division III Colorado College, 9-8.
So this isn’t two guys going to play for some slug of a school. Colorado State lacrosse is legit.
Out of high school, however, the two weren’t ready to play at that level. They were years behind others on the team. But in the no-cut system at CSU, they were welcomed and redshirted. The brothers saw little action their first couple of years. But they stuck it out.
Jake played first, contributing a bit during his redshirt freshman year. He’s now been an integral part of the program for four years.
Andy must absolutely love the game. His last game as a senior in Steamboat marked the last time he saw significant time before this season. Asked if he ever thought about quitting, Andy scoffs.
Essentially he rode the bench for four years. That’s commitment. That’s love.
“I’m proud of myself,” Andy said. “I had a lot to learn. This has been one of the better accomplishments in my life.”
Now the two are leading the second-ranked Rams toward the playoffs and another national championship run.
The two are bewildered about what next year will be like without lacrosse. Each, however, said it always will be part of their lives.
In finding the power of lacrosse, the two have continued to try to pass it down. Each comes back and works with Neill Redfern and Steamboat Youth Lacrosse as coaches every summer.
They said the plan is to do it again this summer.
So where many would have given up and quit, Jake and Andy Flax persevered.
“It’s never been about how much playing time we were getting,” Andy said. “We’re better lacrosse players and better people because of this.”
And that’s the power of lacrosse.
— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com