By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — For more than a decade, the UVa men’s lacrosse team has been entrusted with much of the responsibility for staging the main fund-raising event for Area 3 Special Olympics each year.
Dom Starsia’s players “are sort of our manpower, and you know what? They’re good at it,” David Zentmyer said. “That’s one aspect of it you don’t have to worry about.”
Zentmyer, whose son is a Special Olympian, is a co-coordinator for Area 3, which comprises the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Greene, Louisa and Fluvanna counties.
The fund-raiser that brings in the most money for Area 3 annually is the Gene Arnold Memorial Pepsi 10K, and this year’s race is Saturday at Meriwether Lewis Elementary School near Ivy.
Nearly 500 runners are expected for the 6.2-mile race. It starts at 8 a.m., but the men’s lacrosse players will be at the course well before that.
“This is sort of our baby,” said Starsia, whose players will direct traffic, set up the water stations, put up mile markers and hand out water to runners, among other jobs.
A year ago, Zentmyer said, the 10K raised about $8,500 for 10 sports offered through Area 3 Special Olympics.
“Between runners’ fees and sponsorships, we could approach $10,000 this year,” said Zentmyer, who also praised the Charlottesville Track Club for the help it provides with the race.
The men’s lacrosse players aren’t the only UVa student-athletes involved in this cause. Running Saturday, as they have in years past, will be members of the men’s and women’s swimming-and-diving teams, the women’s lacrosse team and the wrestling team.
The men’s lacrosse team’s role is different. The Cavaliers have 42 players, and “everybody’s got a job,” Starsia said. “I think that they take pride in it. The young guys are always a little wide-eyed when they see what an elaborate event it is and how important their roles are.”
Starsia and his wife, Krissy Lasagna, have four children, including twin daughters. Maggie and Emma are Special Olympians, so “I have a personal stake in this,” Starsia said.
So do his players, who have met twice this week to discuss and divide their race-day duties.
“The twins are a great part of our program,” fourth-year defenseman Ken Clausen. “We see them quite a bit, and it’s great to have them around. This event clearly means a lot for [Starsia], and for the team as a whole, it means a lot for us, too.”
Zentmyer said a couple of area Special Olympians “are going to actually run [Saturday]. And then we’ve got a bunch who are going to help out.”
Starsia has been a fixture at the race over the years, but he’ll be out of town Saturday for the wedding of one of his former players. His assistant coaches, Marc Van Arsdale and John Walker, will be at Meriwether Lewis, but even if they weren’t, Starsia could be confident his players would take their jobs seriously.
“It’s a great cause for the team,” Clausen said. “We all take great pride in it, and the fact that we take such a big role in putting it on is something that means a lot to us.”
For information about the race, contact Zentmyer at (434) 295-2391 or email@example.com. The website is www.pepsi10Krun.com.