MIDDLETOWN — Middletown High will have a varsity lacrosse program for both boys and girls next spring after the Board of Educated voted unanimously Tuesday night to fund the teams.
Lacrosse will join more than 30 varsity sports programs already offered at the high school. The sport has been played at the junior varsity level the last three years, and the two years before that at the club level.
Supporters of the sport at MHS believed the move was overdue, in part because the boys JV team has been competitive during that spell.
A collection of student-athletes, coaches, parents and boosters came before the board to make their case for why they believed the boys program already was a varsity-caliber program, the second time in two weeks the board has heard their pleas to win “respect” as a varsity program.
“Who ever thought it could work like that? We were all floored,” said parent Maureen Dale, whose son is a rising senior at Middletown and was a JV captain as a junior. “We went out into the parking lot after leaving the meeting and all of the boys screamed. The boys are so excited and so are the girls.
“We’re ecstatic. Making ourselves heard really paid off.”
According to figures provided at the meeting, $29,086 will be needed to fund both boys and girls varsity lacrosse. The JV programs operated with funds of $6,000 each last year.
“We’ll fund it somehow, some way,” Board of Education chairman Chris Drake said.
It won’t be known for some time whether MHS JV teams can be funded for next spring.
In speaking to the Middletown Press last week, Middletown High athletic director Elisha De Jesus said she was “hopeful” to have a varsity program in place no later than the 2019-20 school year. De Jesus said she wanted to see both boys and girls teams have the opportunity at the same time, but, from competitive and safety standpoints, she said the girls program wasn’t ready for next year.
“A little bit of the decision comes down to money, but the biggest thing is being equitable,” said De Jesus, who was out of the state Tuesday. Superintendent Dr. Michael Conner also did not attend the board meeting, but listened to parents’ concerns earlier in June.
After two years playing as a club team, Middletown’s first JV team, in 2016, won nine of 10 games. Technically at that point, the Blue Dragons were eligible under Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference guidelines to become a varsity sport.
The following year, Middletown went 10-2 against schools with established lacrosse programs. Last season, its crowning achievement might have been seeing one of its members, Edison Byrd, in line to play the sport at Western New England University next year.
Heather Iaderosa, who, with her husband, Giuseppe, started the Middletown Youth Lacrosse League in 2012, also spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. Middletown youth teams have won three Connecticut Valley Youth titles over that time, and some of those kids are now playing at Middletown High. Iaderosa is the parent of a rising junior and used some of her time in front of the board wondering what else MHS players needed to prove to get an official taste of varsity competition.
“As far as I’m concerned, nothing,” board member Sean King said. “I haven’t heard any reason why not. I am in full support of this motion.”
After a similar set of supporters spoke informally at the board’s June 12 meeting, their goal was to have the lacrosse discussion added as an official action item Tuesday. As of last Thursday, lacrosse was not on the agenda.
Something changed between then and Monday and the matter was put on the agenda. In fact, Drake moved the item atop the agenda as the meeting got underway, and 30 minutes after Dale was the first representative of MHS lacrosse to speak, the plan easily passed.
“I just want to say to you guys that I’m tremendously proud of all of you coming in front of us at the last meeting and now this meeting, and not going away from an issue you believe in,” said board member Ed Ford Jr., who is a graduate of Middletown High. “Continue to do that. I’m proud to see you keep the pressure on, so congratulations.”