A large group of Summerville residents will be in the Denver area this week for the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships.
But they're not there to pull for the favored U.S. team. The contingent, at last count 17, will be pulling for three of their very own: Peter Collins Jr., his younger brother James and Carson Jones, who will be competing for Costa Rica in the 38-team event being played in Commerce City, Colorado. Costa Rica competes in the Grey Division along with the Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey. The event opens Thursday and the championship game is scheduled for July 19.
Lacrosse is a sport that originated with American Indians, and an interesting sidelight to the World Championships is that the Iroquois Indians will be fielding a team.
The Collins brothers' maternal grandmother was from Costa Rica, making them eligible for heritage spots on the Costa Rican team. Jones was picked for one of the two non-heritage spots. Peter, 26 and an attacker, teaches science at Alston Middle School. James, 19 and a midfielder, is a student at Trident Tech. The Collins are the sons of Peter Sr. and Denise Collins. Carson, 19 and a defender, is a student at Winthrop. He is the son of Tim and Beth Jones.
All three are members of the Charleston Hurricanes adult club team, and Peter Jr. coached James and Carson on the Charleston Tribe, which last year won the South Carolina Independent Lacrosse League state championship.
Peter has served as an inspiration to Lowcountry lacrosse enthusiasts on the field, through his coaching and through his two battles over the past three years with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"It's great to be able to represent your grandmother's homeland. Playing in the World Championships is the kind of chance I didn't think I'd ever have," said Peter, who discovered the heritage clause while watching the 2012 Olympics.
The Collins actually were eligible for four teams - Costa Rica, the U.S., Colombia through their paternal grandmother, and Panama through their parents.
As much as they relish the upcoming competition, they cherish the 16 days spent in Costa Rica where they practiced four days a week with the national team, helped with instruction and conducted clinics. Through their connections with LOWLAX (Lowcountry Lacrosse) and STX, they were able to obtain equipment for the team at a sharply discounted price.
It has been an enlightening experience culturally and athletically. None of the three had previously visited Costa Rica, a nation of 4.8 million residents but only three lacrosse clubs.
"It's been cool, visiting a different country, learning how they live and learning how much stuff we have and don't really need, to be able to help out and teach the sport and grow the game," Carson said.
The Costa Rican players had to pay their own to the World Championships, by pinching their paychecks and conducting fundraisers, Peter said. There was no national sponsorship.
Peter said he knew there will be teams at the tournament that are more skilled. Lacrosse in Costa Rica was being taught by a coach who played the game 30 years ago, and the Summerville players have been trying to bring a more current approach to the game.
"This is something positive, something to build on," Peter said. "It's all about growing a sport, all of being a factor in growing the sport globally."