SARANAC LAKE - A plan to merge modified and junior lacrosse athletes from Lake Placid with Saranac Lake has been put on hold due to Section X athletic rules.
Chris Grant appeared before the Lake Placid and Saranac Lake boards of education last Tuesday and Wednesday night, seeking final approval from board members for the motion.
The Lake Placid board approved the merger March 3, with superintendent Jim Donnelly calling the plan a "precedent setting move," as many school districts are facing shrinking budgets and decreasing participation in some sports.
On March 4, Saranac Lake athletic director Mark Farmer also supported the merger, but he said it was unlikely to happen, with or without the support of the two boards.
According to Farmer, Section X rules will not permit the merger, because the deadline to apply was Feb. 27. For all sports other than lacrosse, Saranac Lake belongs to Section VII. In this instance, Red Storm lacrosse is a guest to Section X.
"We don't have any say in Section X policies and procedures," Farmer said. "The chair of Section X athletics, Carl Normander, said the deadline to submit mergers has passed."
Farmer told Normander the junior varsity and modified teams had marginal numbers, and requested an extension to the merger deadline. Additionally, he pursued the merger based on the grounds that some athletes could be injured or lose eligibility.
"His response was that the deadline had already passed," Farmer said. "I asked, I pleaded our case, I thought it was the fair thing to do. I don't know what their policies are; that's why I explained that we are guests there, and we are guests to their rules, and it's unfortunate."
Farmer said Section X has had trouble in the past with mergers, citing situations where some teams tried to take advantage of the rules. Six or seven years ago, the deadline was put in place.
"They're pretty adamant about the deadline and they're going to stick to it," Farmer said.
Jeanne Duguay, president of Tri-Lakes Youth Lacrosse, told the board her organization supports the merger and offered financial support to the district.
Carolyn Yelle-Tucker, mother of seventh grade student Ryley, a lacrosse player, told the board lacrosse keeps her son focused on his school work, and she would like to see the merger happen to assure the Saranac Lake program continues.
"He's not really fond of school most days; he struggles with the academic side of things," Yelle-Tucker said. "What keeps him really excited about school is sports. That keeps him focused."
The board ultimately decided it could not take any action on the merger, and noted even though Grant addressed the Section X Athletics Executive Committee last Thursday, it won't matter because he isn't a spokesperson for the district.
School board president Debra Lennon apologized to Grant, but stressed there was little reason to approve a merger that would not be allowed anyway.
"We're in uncharted waters here," Lennon said. "There's really no precedent for this. We support your motion, but if Mr. Farmer says we can't get an extension for the merger application, there's little we can do."