How important is lacrosse to those young athletes devoted to the game?

The Nebo School District got to see an example of that passion as 51 lacrosse players — most representing the Warriors lacrosse club from all five area high schools — as well as many of their families showed up to the school board meeting in Spanish Fork Wednesday night.

Their goal was to encourage the district to join with many other districts in the state that have announced that the school will have sanctioned lacrosse programs.

“We’re concerned parents,” said Ellison Cabreros, 45, of Spanish Fork. “With the rest of the state sanctioning and Nebo still kind of being in limbo, this is us trying to show proactive initiative and make sure our kids get represented well and get and opportunity to be heard. Hopefully they can be successful in whatever they do and use lacrosse as a building block to get them there. Tonight was taking that first step to make it happen.”

Cabreros was one of two lacrosse representatives who addressed the board during the public comment period as he focused on boys lacrosse and Jared Ottley from Springville lobbied for girls lacrosse.

“If it’s going to be hard, we’re ready for the challenge,” Cabreros said after the meeting. “We just want that chance.”

The Utah High School Activities Association voted in May 2017 to sanction lacrosse starting in the 2019-20 school year. Many northern Utah school districts have announced plans to field teams in the high schools but the Nebo School District is one of three districts that has not yet moved forward on adding the sport.

“We know that we are one of the few that hasn’t made a decision yet,” Cabreros said. “Maybe it is the board’s way of trying to be responsible and careful, so maybe that is why they are taking that extra time. We want them to see that we are ready to go as parents and supporters.”

Nebo School District is still evaluating lacrosse and has yet to make any official decision on the sport.

One of the concerns for the players and coaches is that now that lacrosse is an official high school sport, the club system has been integrated into the high schools.

That means if Nebo School District doesn’t add lacrosse in its high schools, the boys and girls who have been playing at the club level will be left without many options.

“My daughter played for the Timpview lacrosse club last year but we are moving to Highland so she can go to school that has a sanctioned team,” said Kooper Barton, who has been coaching the Spanish Fork club lacrosse team. “We want athletes in Nebo School Districts to be able to have those opportunities.”

Lacrosse may be one of the fastest growing sports in the western United States but it still very much in the developmental stage in Utah Valley.

Cabreros said his family got to know the sport about five or six years ago.

“My oldest son is a senior at Spanish Fork High School,” Cabreros said. “I think he was in fifth grade when we got introduced to the sport by some good friends of ours. We’ve been a lacrosse family since then. I have three more kids as well and so we are in it for the long haul. And we aren’t just in it for our family but we really want to see the sport grow.”

Barton played lacrosse at Mountain View in the late 1990s and has seen the popularity of the sport grow dramatically.

“There were 12 teams in the state in 1999,” Barton said. “20 years later we have 45 varsity teams. The sport has been growing steadily for two decades now. With sanctioning, they believe there will be over 70 varsity teams, which is almost every high school in the state. We don’t want Nebo to be left behind.”

They hope to see it continue to become more mainstream in the area in the next few years.

“I hope we see a varsity team in every high school,” Cabreros said. “I want to have them all with their own teams, with their own youth programs feeding in to that high school team. I want the sport to flourish, to have some of these boys stay local and play in college.”

Barton added: “I hope we see 4A, 5A and 6A teams. I hope it is like in baseball, football or basketball. We have great athletes in the Nebo School District and there is no reason for them to be limited and not be part of the lacrosse program as well.”

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.