When he was 8 years old, Rich Harrington and his younger brother, Erik, unearthed a curious relic while rummaging around the attic of their Albemarle County home.
In a box tucked away in a corner was an antique wooden lacrosse stick, complete with a half leather and half webbed pocket — similar to those Native Americans used when the game was in its infancy in the Eastern Woodlands of the United States.
The stick belonged to Harrington’s father, Dick, who played at Duke in the 60s and went on to chair the English Department at Piedmont Virginia Community College.
Rich Harrington — a 1985 Albemarle graduate — and Erik (1988) both played lacrosse during their days at AHS and went on to play in college. Rich captained the team his senior year at Randolph-Macon, and Erik played at Lynchburg.
In the 80s, Albemarle, Charlottesville and Western Albemarle were the only public schools to field lacrosse teams in Central Virginia.
There’s still no lacrosse at Orange County High School, but Rich Harrington and Sully Carter are working to change that.
In November, the duo got approval from the Orange County School Board to create an OCHS lacrosse club, which will include boys and girls teams that plan to compete on the junior varsity level in the Jefferson District, beginning this spring.
“Even though there has been a lot of growth as of late, lacrosse is still a small community,” Harrington said, “but it’s full of dedicated people who want to make this program succeed. We’re going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.”
Carter, a middle school history teacher in Orange County, has a family connection to the sport. His mother’s family is from Baltimore. Two of his great uncles were all-state high school players and one went on to play at Towson.
His son, Tilghman, and Harrington’s son, Drew, are freshmen at Orange County and both have played lacrosse for years. Tilghman played at Grymes Memorial School in Orange and both took part in Charlottesville’s Seminole League and the Culpeper Lacrosse Association.
“We want to include everybody, from kids who have never picked up a stick to experienced players,” Carter said. “We are very determined to get this off the ground.”
The inclusion of lacrosse at Orange County will leave Louisa County as the only Jefferson District school without the sport.
Orange isn’t the only area school to add lacrosse to its list of spring sports in recent years. Courtland High School in Fredericksburg is in its fifth season as an independent, while James Monore’s boys are entering their third season and its girls, their second.
With a collection of at least 10 experienced players, Harrington and Carter feel like they have a leg up on other programs that are beginning from scratch.
“We are building this from the ground up, but we’re not going to have a group completely new to the game,” said Harrington, who spent time coaching youth CLA teams in Culpeper. “We will have the basics and fundamentals and will be competitive.”
The club team is open to players in grades 8-11, and Harrington and Carter are planning to hold an informational meeting on Feb. 20 for all interested players. Seniors won’t be eligible to play because VHSL rules don’t allow them to compete on the JV level, but Harrington said seniors who want to help coach or manage the team are encouraged to come out.
“This is something we want everybody to get excited about,” said Harrington, noting local parents Connie and Jeff Norberg have been active in getting the program off the ground. “We don’t want to be the last school in the district without it, and it’s something we hope to build into a contender in OC.”
Harrington said the response on the girls’ side hasn’t been as strong as on the boys, but they’re hoping to field both teams this spring.
They’re planning to name coaches from within the school system before Feb. 20, and OCHS has already pledged its support through transportation to practice fields and games.
Finalizing a schedule is still a way off, but the Hornets plan to host a few home games on fields behind Prospect Heights Middle School that are currently home to the OCHS soccer teams. The lacrosse teams will practice on an open field behind Orange Elementary School.
The duo is shooting for at least an eight-game schedule to run from mid-March to June, and work continues to fund needed equipment, such as helmets, gloves, sticks, pads, mouth guards and goggles (for the girls).
Harrington worked with CLA President Steve Speelman in Culpeper and met several times with Culpeper County High School boys coach Scott Found, who began the program at CCHS in 2004 and took the Blue Devils to the state tournament in 2006 and 2007.
Speelman coaches at Eastern View High School, which opened in 2008 and fielded its first lacrosse teams in the spring of 2009.
“The big thing we want people to understand is everyone is welcome,” Harrington said. “From the coaches to the least experienced players, you’re not going to be alone out here.”
Orange County High School plans to field boys and girls junior varsity club teams to begin competition in spring 2017. An informational meeting will be held on Feb. 20. Boys and girls in grades 8-11 are eligible. For more information or to register, check out oclacrosse.net, call (540) 718-8607 or email email@example.com. You can also check out OCHS Lax on Facebook.