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MIHS grad starts lacrosse team at the University of Portland | Despite a double major, Ankrom finds time to play sport and handle new team’s administration
Former Islander Ken Ankrom loves lacrosse. He began playing the sport in middle school while living on Mercer Island. But when he graduated from Mercer Island High School in 2006, the opportunity to play the sport ended.
Ankrom took action by starting his own club lacrosse team at the University of Portland.
“I have loved lacrosse since I started playing,” said Ankrom. “I wanted to take the program into my own hands. It takes a lot of time, and you have to be diligent.”
Along with his class load toward a double major in marketing management and economics, most of his free time is spent recruiting players and practicing.
“This really is a testament to his work ethic,” said Mercer Island boys lacrosse coach Ian O’Hearn. “During his senior year, he was our best defense-man on our state championship team. I was a little upset for him that he picked a school with no lacrosse program, but he took care of that.”
Finding athletes who play lacrosse on the West Coast can be difficult. Finding players who have played at a high level is even more difficult.
The time that it takes away from studies has hit Ankrom and his recruits.
“I was originally a double major with a minor but accounting wasn’t really for me,” said Ankrom. “We have to charge club dues, so it can be hard to get players to come out when they hear they have to pay.”
That monetary commitment includes travel expenses. Those travels include long distances to schools such as the University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University, Central Washington University, Whitman University, Western Washington University and the college of Idaho.
“The drop-out rate is pretty high,” said Ankrom. “The monetary side is pretty difficult.”
The University of Portland has a foundation to help student clubs. That foundation was key for Ankrom.
“They gave us money so we could buy helmets and jerseys,” said Ankrom. “I also got some help from coach O’Hearn. He got some great prices through Breakaway Sports.”
With players and equipment, the team had to find opponents, so the team joined the Men’s Club Lacrosse Association. The team is hoping to start scrimmaging with bigger schools such as the University of Washington.
But Ankrom’s diligence has led to the team’s first season of nine games, five home and four away.
“I think that what he is doing is pretty difficult with all the other things that go on in college,” said O’Hearn. “The sport is growing so much on the West Coast, and the club teams are where it starts.”
Ankrom’s creation may one day become an NCAA Division III program. There are only three NCAA men’s lacrosse programs west of the Mississippi, but the growth of the sport could yield more.
“The major obstacle for the schools is financial and Title IX,” said O’Hearn. “There are significantly more girls’ NCAA teams, and I think that will open the door. It’s going to happen because this area is so saturated with good players, and many of them don’t want to go to school on the East Coast.”
Ankrom was one of those players.