For Eric McDonald, the third time’s a charm.
The 14-year-old lacrosse player with the Sarnia Minor Pacers had been eyeing a spot on Ontario’s box lacrosse team the past three years.
After two attempts at making the squad, he finally earned the red and black jersey this spring.
McDonald is one of 18 runners and two goalies representing Ontario this week at the Canadian Lacrosse Association national championships in Saskatoon.
The rigorous tryouts for the Ontario squad are available to anyone the right age with $140 to spare. But if you don’t have the grit and skill to play at the national level, you’re sent packing.
“The worst part is, it’s all face-to-face, that last cut,” McDonald said. “You go to the room with the coach and they tell you if you made it.”
McDonald was among 60 hopefuls from western Ontario this spring. That number was whittled down to 35, and then 20.
The final tryout featured 40 kids from western and eastern Ontario.
“Parents had to sit and wait for the kids to come out, one by one,” said Eric’s dad, Steve McDonald, who accompanied him to the final camp in Whitby.
“Some are crying, some are smiling,”
McDonald was definitely smiling.
He and the rest of the Ontario team flew to Saskatoon on Saturday for a week of up to 10 games, depending on how they perform.
Ontario is a favourite having won the championship for the past eight years.
Joining a team he’s not familiar with hasn’t been difficult for McDonald. He’s played box and field lacrosse for seven years and is among the best players in the province.
“The drills are actually the same drills we were doing,” said Steve McDonald.
“He fit right in… already knowing that stuff.”
McDonald was on the Pacers team that made the top 16 in Ontario this spring – a feat that hadn’t been achieved by a Sarnia bantam lacrosse team in 20 years.
McDonald, who will be attending Northern Collegiate this fall, hopes to continue both box and field into high school. He has set his sights on a scholarship and eventually becoming a police officer.
McDonald also plays hockey in the winter as a right-winger with the Jr. Sting. He uses many of the same skills on and off the ice, giving him a well-rounded understanding of both games.
But Lacrosse is where his heart is.
“I think it’s faster, it’s more intense,” he said.
“It’s a different rush.”