Sam Russell has spent the past two years at Whittier College, a Division III school in California. As a sophomore he started 15 of 15 Games, scored 31 Goals, made 25 Assists, 56 Points in total, with 33 Groundballs. As far as I’m aware, these impressive stats left the England youngster in the top 5 nationally for Division III midfielders.
Although Sam played Lacrosse from a young age, the success story started at Cheadle & Marple 6th Form College, where he represented the growing lacrosse academy. Head coach at the academy, Alistair Hodgson, also assistant coach for this years England Team, saw Sam’s amazing potential as a top international player, and promptly recommended him to a close friend of his, Henry “Skip” Flannagan.
“Skip”, a Head Master at the very prestigious ‘Western Reserve Academy’ in Ohio, welcomed this student athlete with open arms. Here Sam joined the Academy as a Senior, and had an impressive season, attracting attention from an eclectic mix of colleges, earning him self the honor to represent and captain his country at the U19’s World Championships in Canada. Here he scored 19 goals as a midfielder, securing 7th top goal scorer in the championships, beating many world class attacker to the honor of top 10 statistics.
That Autumn, after much deliberation, Sam found himself at Whittier college, and why not after all, only 40 minutes from LA, a swift hour to the Beach, and only a few more from the mountains! Some might say, “you’d be stupid not to!” The developing Lacrosse program here meant that the England Skipper played 11 games in his freshman year whilst striking 16 goals and 5 assists, enough to place him 4th on the squad.
Two years at Whittier have clearly served him well, as now just a week from the World Championships he is training with the senior England squad as the second youngest player, and looking stronger than ever. However, the squad’s youngest player, Jak Wawrzyniak has an equally impressive success story...
After representing the England U19’s in Canada, Jak moved to Avon Old Farms High School where he has just finished his senior year. Here, the varsity lacrosse team enjoyed a tremendous season – one of the school’s best lacrosse teams in the past decade. The program achieved a 15-3 overall record, finishing #1 in the Founder’s League (7-0) and #3 in Western New England (13-2). Some season statistics included a winning streak of 13 games, an impressive 200 goals for, and 134 goals against. The team’s average margin of victory was 4.67 goals per game, and average margin of losing a mere 1.33 goals per game.
Jak performed so well this year at Avon, after being scouted by many top teams he has now committed to Stoney Brook University, New York, who narrowly missed out on a NCAA Division I semi-final place, losing 10-9 to Virginia.
I asked Jak: “How he was feeling about the up coming Championships in Manchester?” He replied, “I don’t really get too nervous about games or tournaments. I start getting myself ready for a big game a few days before then the nerves kick in the night before and pre-game but nerves definitely make me play better.”
He continued, “Ultimately I’m going against the best players in the world in July which is going to be a load of fun and can really only make me a better player….as crazy as the thought is of lining up against some of those guys: I’m excited to get after it!”
Both these young players have performed to the critics, proving their worth when it truly matters, and have accomplished one of the greatest honors a player can receive; representing their country at the highest level. But what makes it extra special is that they get to do it in their home town. A truly special achievement for them both. I wish them, and all those all competing the best of luck, this tournament is looking to be one of the most exciting yet.
Written by James Mearns
Information in this article has been source from Whittier College athletics, and Avon Old Farm Athletic websites.
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