Myles Conway did not want to be left out.
The rising senior at St. Mary's could have spent his Fourth of July weekend navigating the waters of Marathon Bay in Greece. Instead, he took to the artificial turf fields of Loyola College for the Top 205 Lacrosse Camp.
Lacrosse's version of the Nike and Five Star summer basketball camps, the Top 205 attracts more than 600 high school seniors and a few juniors clamoring for the attention of the 90 college lacrosse coaches on hand. Few of the area's top players are willing to miss the four days of instruction, competition and, most of all, exposure.
"It's still the one that they all kind of shoot for," Princeton coach Bill Tierney said.
Tierney started the camp seven years ago with Loyola's Dave Cottle and Johns Hopkins' Tony Seaman. Originally designed for the 205 best high school seniors, the camp attracted 396 players last weekend and another 260 for the session that ended yesterday.
Campers are nominated by their high school coaches, then their applications are accepted on a first come, first-served basis. The $450 tuition is a small price to pay for a shot to play college lacrosse -- even if it means giving up a trip to Greece.
The week before the Top 205, Conway finished second in the Nautica Youth Championship on Lake Michigan. He qualified for the World Youth Championship in Marathon, Greece, the following week, but Conway eschewed his life jacket for a lacrosse stick.
"I didn't feel like I'd get the exposure without coming," said Conway, a midfielder who wants to sail and play lacrosse in college. "No other camp would have 90 coaches."
Indeed, the presence of the coaches makes the camp. Although most coaches have their own camps, they attend the Top 205's 46-player all-star game and speak on the last day of each session. They also encourage their assistants to spend the entire week there as counselors.
"I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't go to this camp," UMBC coach Don Zimmerman said.
The camp is particularly helpful for Division III coaches with limited recruiting budgets and keen interests in players who are not necessarily considered blue-chip prospects.
"In three or four days I can see as many kids as it would take two or three months of traveling in the fall," Washington College coach Terry Corcoran said.
There are other recruiting-oriented lacrosse camps, and each has its own gimmick. The Championship Lacrosse Weekend, July 28-31 at Goucher College, allows players to form all-star teams that compete against each other. The Top Star Camp, June 26-30 at Gettysburg College, has a day devoted to SAT preparation, and the New England Peak 200, July 17-21 at Springfield College, gives more exposure to New England players.
Some coaches said the players put too much emphasis on these camps.
"I think for kids, they think it's their one chance to be seen," Georgetown coach Dave Urick said. "But for that player who's definitely a blue-chip player, coaches are going to know him regardless if he goes to this camp."
Conway, who is not considered a blue-chip recruit, almost missed his opportunity to be seen because of an injury. He sprained his right ankle on the second day of camp, and the ankle had swelled overnight. Sitting out the instructional session the following morning, Conway would try to play in his game that afternoon. He had too much at stake.
"You feel [badly] if you give up a trip to Greece and pay extra money and then not play," Conway said as he sat dejectedly on the bleachers at Loyola's Curley Field with only one shoe on. "I really hope later in the day that I can play."
He did play, well enough to make the 46-man all-star team at the end of camp. He was sent into the game during an extra-man situation with his team trailing 8-7. Conway scored the game-tying goal on a pass from Loyola midfielder Scott Diggs that he fired into the left corner of the net from 15 feet away. The game ended in an 8-8 tie.
"I had a good feeling about it," Conway said of the shot. "It made it all worthwhile."