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For some in Maryland, youth lacrosse tournaments nourish passion. For others, they cause concern.

Grayson Morgan rose the morning of Aug. 1 to try to walk the dog before his children woke up. He lives down the street from Davidsonville Park, normally a quiet atmosphere from his experience, so he headed there.

“I turned the corner, and I thought a carnival was going on,” Morgan said. “Hundreds of cars, hundreds of people, and I lapped the outside just to see what was going on, standing away from the crowds, and I just couldn’t believe what was going on.”

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What Morgan saw was the Summer Exposure, one of several lacrosse tournaments headed by HoganLax, a preeminent local boys lacrosse club organization. The two-day tournament led into the Naptown National Challenge, what had initially been a three-day slate (before Tropical Storm Isaias struck), which invited 90 teams from Maryland and places as far as Florida, Texas and Colorado.

“I think it all went well,” HoganLax CEO Matt Hogan said in a text. “Parents and players were very appreciative to have been able to play.”

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For the many lacrosse families involved, the tournament, which concluded Wednesday with five champions, has served as a dose of normalcy in a year tarnished by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

St. John’s midfielder Vincent Trujillo plays for the Annapolis Hawks 2022 squad, which Wednesday took on Iron Horse Texas 2022, a team hailing from Austin, Texas. His father, Eddie, hadn’t been too concerned about his son’s recruiting options when the virus struck, as invitations to tournaments began to roll in.

“The fact that he’s playing less lacrosse but more quality is awesome,” Trujillo said. “... His ranking has kind of gone through the roof. We’re fortunate.”

Naptown is the Trujillos’ second tournament of the summer, but Eddie Trujillo happily bunched up with some other parents he’d recognized from the former. One of those parents, Texas resident Jeff Vickrey, has a son who plays in goal for Iron Horse.

“We’ve taken care of ourselves, even before COVID came,” Trujillo said. “We’re taking precautions. We’ve been around these folks a couple of times these summers and no one’s had issues. There’s always a concern. Fortunately for us, we have no pre-existing conditions.”

Vickrey felt quite comfortable about traveling from his home outside of Dallas to Annapolis. He and his family flew Southwest, an airline that still keeps its middle seats unbooked. He rented a house in Annapolis instead of a hotel. On Tuesday, when the rain came, they hung around, except to go out to a restaurant and when Vickrey’s son Colin needed to go to practice at Annapolis. On Thursday, Colin was set to fly to Indiana to begin training for football at Culver Academy.

None of that worried Vickrey, who hails from a state that from July 29 to Aug. 4 averaged 8,207 new cases and 203 deaths per day, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“I think we’re really careful. It didn’t seem overly risky,” Vickrey said. “It was fine.”

At Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, hand sanitizer stations welcomed visitors to the site. HoganLax posted signs with rules such as mask-wearing. Temperatures were taken from every entering individual. The game’s announcer doled out consistent reminders throughout play for spectators to keep their masks on.

That announcement rung out to a crowd in which nearly every person in one section was not wearing a mask. They were, at least, mostly spread out. Others, on the other hand, kept their masks on.

At a game between Annapolis Hawks 2022 and Iron Horse Texas 2022 at Annapolis High earlier in the day, many patrons kept their masks on, though some did not. Once the game had begun, the individual taking temperatures had vanished. A few parents walked in, temperatures unchecked.

Renie Sotiropoulos concurs with other parents that Naptown has been the safest tournament they’ve experienced so far. The history teacher at Severn School watched her son, Nickolas, compete for the Annapolis Hawks 2023 team on Monday and Wednesday from Navy’s stadium and Blandair Park in Howard County, where she felt her anxiety soothed all game long.

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“You’re not entirely sure where they’re coming from. But it was just parents mostly,” Sotiropoulos said. “When you’re on the sidelines, you’re with your parents you’ve seen forever.”

David Burns came from Washington, D.C, with his son, Colin, who played for the champion MadLax Nationals 2023 squad and defeated the defending Annapolis Hawks on Wednesday. Burns recalled the devastation his son felt after he’d put in a tremendous amount of work before his freshman season at Georgetown Prep, only to have it canceled.

This is their fourth tournament this summer. Burns has considered the risk.

“I think there has to be a balance,” Burns said. “It’s important that every one here wears masks and social distances. I think each parent of a kid has to make that choice.”

One of those players taking on the risk is Jacob Todd, a rising sophomore at Severn School who scored four goals for the Annapolis Hawks 2023 team Wednesday.

“It’s meant a lot. It’s my last tournament if the summer … it would have been nice, but,” Todd said. “I feel pretty comfortable. It’s outside, I don’t feel too scared about getting [coronavirus].”

Not everyone’s happy there’s a couple thousand people congregating for lacrosse in town.

On his Saturday walk, Morgan lightly scanned the license plates in the parking lot of Davidsonville Park. He counted five states.

His mother Penny is a member of the Davidsonville community group on Nextdoor, a neighborhood website, where other residents expressed outrage at the flocks of lacrosse spectators in their area.

“I am in complete shock that, one, this is authorized by county officials, and two, there’s no attempt by anyone to regulate or enforce public safety rules,” Morgan said. “We are not happy this event is in our backyard. They’re not going into the park and leaving. They’re staying in the local hotels, going to restaurants.”

Morgan contacted the Anne Arundel County Police Department, Southern District, as well as the Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks and the Anne Arundel Department of Health. The two latter departments each received one email of complaint, said Rec and Parks spokesperson Colleen Joseph.

Four executive order violations regarding the lacrosse tournaments had been reported to Anne Arundel police, two from South River High on Aug. 1, one from Davidsonville Park on Aug. 1 and one from Annapolis High on Aug. 3, according to police spokesperson Marc Limansky.

When South County resident Gale Edelstein saw what was going on at two previous HoganLax tournaments held at South River High — the Bay Bridge Brawl on July 18 and the Summer Exposure this past weekend — she contacted Edgewater police. She likes Hogan and didn’t want to get anybody in trouble, but someone suggested to her that it was the thing to do. She also emailed Hogan, who assured her he’d look into it.

“Those were not very safe, and there were not very many protocols being followed,” Edelstein said. “I can understand that the people in charge can’t be everywhere, and one of them was before Governor [Larry] Hogan stipulated the more stringent measures.” Hogan issued a mandate July 29 that required all Marylanders over the age of 5 to wear masks outdoors when social distancing was not possible.

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Edelstein’s son and daughter traveled down from New York, which has tighter coronavirus-related restrictions, such as a mandatory 14-day quarantine if residents were to travel from a hotspot state, like Maryland.

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“They were pretty appalled at what they were seeing,” Edelstein said.

The NCAA extended its recruiting dead period through August, which forbids Division I coaches from scouting young talent. As an effort not to let their college chances fester, young players are sending videos of themselves from these tournaments so coaches have something fresh.

The Naptown Challenge’s championship games were broadcast live on ESPN3, which was an added bonus in the eyes of Archbishop Spalding boys lacrosse coach Brian Phipps, who had several players compete for the Annapolis Hawks 2022 team.

“It’s great. I’m happy for the kids to have this experience, to play some of the best competition in the country,” Phipps said. “I hope it helps with some of the recruiting aspect as well.”

Phipps aided with running the event during Monday’s games. From his vantage, everyone was following the rules. Edelstein appreciated the additions to the HoganLax tournament she witnessed Monday, which included temperature checks and staff who reminded spectators to keep masks on.

“They really seemed to care about safety in that regard,” Edelstein said, “however, I did speak to some of the parents. They were concerned that the teams were coming from a lot of these hotspots.”

There was one rule she still saw ignored. Only one family member was supposed to accompany a player, but couples, even couples with children, came in with their athlete.

Edelstein doesn’t know what the right choice is when it comes to youth tournaments such as Naptown. The retired Anne Arundel County teacher had two grown children who played sports at South River and then college.

“I’m really conflicted. Nobody really wants people from high rates who don’t take social distancing and masks as carefully as they should,” Edelstein said. “On the other hand, you feel sorry for the kids who’ve lost so much.”

Sotiropoulos would do anything to have her kids play their sports. Nickolas missing out on a chance to play with his brother, a senior, this past spring felt like “a dagger.” She doesn’t want to have that happen to her sons again.

“If you tell me I have to wear a hazmat suit and my kid can play, I’ll do it,” Sotiropoulos said. “For so many boys and girls, their team is their friends, their outlet. They just feel better after a day of playing for every reason.”

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