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A recurring series on WGLT's Sound Ideas about the central Illinois athletes who do incredible things, even after the game is over.

Bloomington High School senior helps three rival schools unite to grow lacrosse

Mak Grisinger, left, starting playing lacrosse in the fourth grade.
Mak Grisinger, left, starting playing lacrosse in the fourth grade.

Bloomington-Normal has only had school-sponsored lacrosse since 2020, but Bloomington High School senior Mak Grisinger was playing her favorite sport long before then.

Mak and her father and coach Andy Grisinger helped to form the Purple IronCats, a co-op program that includes students from Bloomington, Normal Community and Normal West high schools. Normal Community serves as the host school.

Mak Grisinger has parlayed her talents on the field into a spot on a Division I roster. Grisinger will attend Central Michigan University in the fall.

Sadie Newton lacrosse
Sadie Newton, right, of the Normal Community Purple IronCats moves past a defender during a lacrosse match.

In this edition of WGLT's Beyond Sports, Grisinger explained she's been playing lacrosse since the 4th grade. She picked up the sport from her father who played lacrosse in college, where she grew up.
Prior to lacrosse being officially sponsored as a sport by the Illinois High School Association (2018) and later, District 87 and Unit 5 schools, the Grisingers helped to grow the sport in Bloomington-Normal through the club circuit. Mak played with the Bloomington-Normal Warriors, a program that offered the sport to children starting grade school.

Mak, on the other hand, was playing on the high school team in the sixth grade.

Purple IronCats

The Purple IronCats recently started their second full season after their first campaign in 2020 was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Grisinger said she likes how the team has incorporated the identities into its mascot, incorporating the Purple Raiders from Bloomington, the Ironmen from Normal Community and Wildcats from Normal West.

“I really enjoy the three schools being able to come together because we all know that outside of lacrosse we are all rivals, but when we are in uniform at practice, in games, we are one team,” Grisinger said, noting all three schools’ primary colors and lettering are included on team jerseys.

Lacrosse growth

Grisinger said the sport is growing locally. She said she envisions each of the high schools who sponsor the Purple IronCats will have their own teams within the next five years.

Eighty Illinois high school sponsor lacrosse currently. Parents still cover the costs to run the co-op team. That was an agreement that team organizers made with school officials to have them sponsor a team.

Grisinger said she finds lacrosse more stable environment than the other school sports she has played, volleyball and basketball. She noted during her time on the Bloomington girls’ basketball team, she had three head coaches in three years.

“That was hard going through a new coach every year,” she said. “The stability through lacrosse has always been good for me. It’s always been a safe space. Our coaches let us know that it’s a safe space and mistakes are ok. They let you know if you are making a mistake that’s growth.”

Lacrosse team
The Normal Community Purple IronCats lacrosse team recently began its second full season.

Mak’s father serves as head coach for the Purple IronCats.

Generation connection

Grisinger is a National Honor Society member at BHS and before she had to turn her attention to the school’s new lacrosse team, she helped to form a student group called the Generation Connection. It planned to send students into senior living facilities and meet with older adults to bridge a generational divide.

“Generation Z has a bad rep with everybody else because they think that all we care about is our phones and that we are rude and don’t know how to interact with adults,” Grisinger said.

The program had to be halted when the pandemic began.

Grisinger received a full academic scholarship to attend Central Michigan. Grisinger hasn't chosen a major, but said she wants to work in the medical field.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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