This year’s inaugural Starfish Classic at Hammond High School hadn’t even officially begun, but Lindsay Kolesar and Chris Reagle already knew it was going to be a success.
“(Chris) had told me he pulled in the parking lot and saw all the cars that were already there and knew right away it was going to be a special day. The turnout was wonderful,” said Kolesar, who served as one of the co-organizers of the alumni lacrosse event that was held Aug. 3 as a memorial to long-time Hammond coach Gay Petrlik who passed away in May.
“The first year you put on an event you never really know quite what to expect, but everything really came together. It’s hard to explain, but you could almost feel Mrs. P’s energy out there on the field.”
Kolesar, an assistant girls lacrosse coach at Hammond, and Reagle, Hammond’s varsity boys lacrosse coach, first began discussions during the spring season about potentially getting an alumni game off the ground.
Following Petrlik's death May 26, the idea of holding the games together in her honor developed. Petrlik had started girls lacrosse at Hammond and coached the program for the first 12 years.
"It all just seemed to make perfect sense to dedicate the games to her," Kolesar said. "She was always so fun and lively … the alumni games seemed like something she would have loved."
In all, there were well over 100 former players, families and friends that gathered to either play or watch the event in Hammond's stadium. The women played first, followed by the men.
Prior to the women's game, Petrlik's daughter Emily Cox spoke to the players and crowd about her mother.
"There were some alumni I knew, some people that I didn't … but to be able to see them in a fun environment it was a moment that gave a really tough year a positive spin," Cox said. "To be able to speak and then go out and do something my mom loved, in her name, it was an amazing thing."
There were T-shirts printed with the poem "Starfish" on them and were worn by several players. The poem, written by Philip Kocisko, was one of Petrlik's favorites and served as the inspiration behind the Classic's name.
The plan is to make this an annual event and Kolesar says future proceeds could be used to develop a scholarship fund in Petrlik's name.
"I've already had several people come up to me saying they can't wait until next year," she said. "It would be nice if we can make this a tradition for the first weekend of August every summer."