Lacrosse is taking off in Bellingham, and with the growing trend, players are looking for ways to play at a higher level. One of the options to play with the elite is the Burnaby Mountain Select team in Canada.
Six Whatcom County players made the trip to Burnaby every Friday and Saturday this fall to compete with the best. The elite players include Sehome's Noah Black and Andrew Hoemann, Bellingham's Adam Estrada and Lynden Christian's Sam Mumford.
"It's definitely more intense," Mumford said in a phone interview. "The speed is a lot quicker and the skills are a lot better."
Mumford, 16, has played lacrosse for six years, but this year was his first with Burnaby. In the prep lacrosse season, Mumford plays for the Lynden Cavaliers. He is the head captain as a midfielder and faceoff specialist for the team.
His desire to play at a collegiate level has him searching for any opportunity to improve his game.
"It makes me prepared for a higher level of lacrosse," Mumford said. "It shows what it takes to be in college."
At Burnaby's tournaments coaches will often approach him and talk to him about the college game. His dream is eventually to get a scholarship to play in college, and those are often available, he said. His ultimate goal would be to play on the east coast at a NCAA Division I school, but he belives Division II is more likely.
"D-II would be a great accomplishment," Mumford said. "It would be cool to be a professional athlete, but I'm just hoping to get through college with lacrosse."
Despite the rise of lacrosse in the area, Mumford said he remains a black sheep in Lynden.
"Lynden is a basketball town," he said. "It's cool to be doing something not many people do. It's a different sport. It's cool to be one of the few in Lynden to do that. All my friends were stoked and proud I made the Burnaby team."
Mumford also plays football, but is attracted to lacrosse do to its speed.
"It's a perfect level of athleticism," he said. "I think it's a perfect combination of intensity."
Lacrosse is taking off all over the U.S. and Mumford is glad for it, even if it means it won't be as unique. It is great to see the game grow, he said.
"I don't know why more people haven't tried it out," he said. "It's great to see a game that wasn't always a cool thing to do, or popular when I was younger, grow. I love to see young kids playing it, as well as kids my age."
As the sport grows, players like Sehome's Noah Black and Andrew Hoemann and Bellingham's Adam Estrada continue to go north for competition and it's raising the level of play in Whatcom County.
"It's making it more difficult in the area," Mumford said. "But it's more fun. It's great to see the area produce elite players."
For Mumford, his eyes remain locked on his goal, Burnaby is just a stepping stone to making him a better leader. He has become faster on every level. His skill and mental ability have improved and that all will help him in his future lacrosse endeavors.
But, as always, sports are about having fun.
"It's just a good opportunity to play the game I love," Mumford said.
Reach Joshua Hart at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 360-756-2851.