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Running the balls
December 1, 2017

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LAKE PLACID - As soon as USA Luge officials adopted their newest fundraiser in March 2016, they knew that the Running of the Balls benefit would need to be tweaked in the following years to get it just right. This year, more tweaking is indeed necessary.

That first event, held after the World Cup season on March 25, 2016, saw 960 lacrosse balls making a nearly 1-mile run from the top of the Olympic Sports Complex sliding track at Mount Van Hoevenberg to Curve 19, one curve shy of the track's uphill finish line. That's as far as the balls will go, so USA Luge Marketing Director Gordy Sheer and track workers stand on the ice to catch the first batch of balls.

During last year's race, to keep the balls moving along, USA Luge intern Josh Rabideau - a student from SUNY Plattsburgh - stood trackside at the Chicane and moved the slower balls down the track using a hockey stick, a trick they did not use the first year.

"Running of the Balls has been very successful for us," Sheer said in a phone interview Nov. 28. "It's kind of off the wall a little bit."

Whether the pun was intended or not, Sheer gives credit to the many local sponsors who have supported ROTB 1 and 2 and will be back to help out this year with ROTB 3, which will be held in two weeks when the Viessmann Luge World Cup races are held in Lake Placid.

Last year, USA Luge held ROTB 2 at the end of the World Cup in early December, after the second day of the races. While exposure of the benefit during the World Cup weekend added to the limelight of the event, and saw some international teams sponsoring balls, the timing was a little off. ROTB was held right after the final luge race on Saturday, the second day, and the television crews were eager to pack up and go home, according to Sheer. So this year, they've decided to change the day.

ROTB 3 will be held after the last race of the first day - Friday, Dec. 15 - instead of Saturday, and Sheer hopes that will help give organizers enough breathing room to run the fundraiser without limitations.

As for the future, Sheer only sees this event growing.

"It's just wacky enough, in the long term we may be able to get bigger sponsors involved," Sheer said.

Holding the ROTB on Friday also gives USA Luge officials all the time they need to hold their after-World Cup party at the Lake Placid Conference Center Saturday night, when they will announce their picks for the 2018 Olympic team.

How it works

Similar to the Lake Placid Rotary Club's Dam Duck Race on the Chubb River, people can adopt lacrosse balls in the chance one of their balls will cross the finish line first. Balls have been donated by Summit Lacrosse. People don't keep the balls they adopt.

At the inaugural event, 960 lacrosse balls negotiated the Mount Van Hoevenberg course, raising more than $12,000 for USA Luge in the process. During the second event, the organization raised more than $17,000 with 1,280 lacrosse balls.

Fans may enter as many balls as they'd like. The cost is $10 per ball or three balls for $25. USA Luge is selling tickets at Lake Placid retail outlets and at USA Luge headquarters at 57 Church St. in Lake Placid. Or people can register online at go.teamusa.org/2ibwRoC.

Cash and prizes from USA Luge sponsors will be offered for the top 10 balls, as well as the last place ball. Prizes will be awarded as follows: first place, $500 and a hat from Duluth Trading Company; second place, $300; third place, $200; fourth place, $150; fifth place, $100; sixth place, Travelers Choice large hard case luggage; seventh place, Timex watch; eighth place, small Travelers Choice roll aboard luggage; ninth place, Minus 33 socks; 10th place, Duluth Trading Company baseball hat; and last place, $100.

More prizes will be added from White Castle, including gift certificates. U.S. Venture will also supply some hats to the winners.

Current gold sponsors include High Peaks Resort, McDonald's of Lake Placid, Casella Waste Management, and Hotel North Woods. Silver sponsors are Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Margerita Sears and the Summit Hotel. Bronze sponsors are Mountain Dental, Burnham Benefit Advisors, Lake Placid Family Dental and Bear Essentials.

The Lake Placid News and WSLP 93.3-FM are media sponsors.

On-site fans will be treated to coverage on large screens thanks to the International Luge Federation, Carr-Hughes Productions and the state Olympic Regional Development Authority. The event will also be broadcast online at www.USALuge.org.

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