By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- There was a time, not so long ago, when Randolph-Macon Academy senior Brook Blair wouldn't go near a lacrosse stick.
Blair, who started playing the sport at age 5, was burned out by the time he arrived at R-MA as a boarding student entering the sixth grade. For three years, Blair tried his hand at something else -- golf, tennis, soccer -- anything but lacrosse.
"I didn't pick up a stick for three years," Blair said. "I didn't even look at a stick. Then coming into my freshman year of high school here, I started to play again."
Blair had already decided to resume playing, and his resolve was cemented after his father passed away during his freshman year. Losing his dad, a former NCAA Division I midfielder at Towson University and his biggest influence in the game, made Blair eager to play again.
"I had him as a mentor for lacrosse all the way up until my ninth-grade year," Blair said. "That's what made me want to continue playing lacrosse for the rest of my life. He wanted me to, and he passed away so I wanted to take on that legacy."
Blair has been a top performer for the Yellow Jackets ever since. Last year a junior, he led the team with more than 40 goals scored and paced R-MA to the Delaney Athletic Conference tournament championship. His team dropped a tough 9-8 double overtime decision to Wakefield School in the championship, but with many key players back from last year's squad the Yellow Jackets are ready to take aim at that title once again.
"We don't ever want to look too far down the line," R-MA coach Blake Hollinger said. "I try to keep these young men focused on the next game. We even try to break it down into just quarters. I would be fantastic (to win the DAC). I see this team being able, as we put it, to climb the mountain. That is the goal."
Blair, from Stewartstown, Pa., will be crucial to those plans. Last year, he earned the DAC's Most Valuable Player award. This past weekend, Blair picked up another MVP honor after leading the Yellow Jackets to second-place finish at the Benedictine Tournament in Richmond. R-MA dropped a close match to the host school in its opener, but bounced back to earn wins over Fork Union Military School and Powhatan that same day.
Over the three-match span, Blair tallied eight goals and five assists. That, and a trophy to take home.
"I was very surprised to get that," Blair said. "Usually to the victors go the spoils, so you're thinking the first-place team is going to get the MVP. I don't really see myself as the best player anywhere I go."
Blair might not see it that way, but others apparently do. A dangerous one-on-one threat at his attackman position, Blair is now consistently getting marked by opposing teams as the player to take out as an option. That's OK with Blair, who can rely on his younger brother, Peter, and sophomore Jake Branham to pick up the scoring slack if necessary.
"The skill level of everyone around Brook has been growing as well, so his mindset of where he was sort of the go-to guy here, and certainly in crunch time still is, now he knows that he has five offensive guys around him that he can rely on," Hollinger said. "I think he already has more assists this year than he had all of last season.
"He's turning into a well-rounded player, which is fantastic to see as a coach."
Blair credits his stick skills and passing ability as his main strengths as a player. He hopes to take that ability to the next level in the future.
"I definitely want to play in college," Blair said. "I'm aiming toward the D3 path because D1 is just way too much lacrosse for me. I want to have a good balance between academics and lacrosse."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>