Siksika Nation teen playing lacrosse for junior college in New York

·4 min read

Skylar Running Rabbit is confident he has what it takes to play lacrosse at the highest level in the American collegiate ranks.

And Running Rabbit, a member of Siksika Nation in Alberta, does not mind if it takes him a year or two of personal and financial commitment to prove himself.

Running Rabbit, 18, is currently in his first year of studies at Tompkins Cortland Community College, located in the village of Dryden, N.Y.

He’s also suiting up for the men’s field lacrosse team, the Panthers, at the college.

The squad competes in the National Junior Colleges Athletic Association.

Running Rabbit estimates it is costing about $10,000 (US) a year for him to attend Tompkins Cortland.

He’s hoping that after a year or two at the school he’ll be able to earn an athletic scholarship and transfer to an NCAA Division I school.

“It’s kind of my views on it,” he said. “This is like an investment in my future.”

Running Rabbit thinks there was a chance he might have been able to play in the NCAA ranks now, if COVID-19 hadn’t happen.

That’s because he had been looking forward to playing and hopefully starring for a Junior A box lacrosse team in Alberta during the 2020 season.

But that campaign was wiped out by the pandemic.

As a result, when Running Rabbit was seeking a place to play at the collegiate level this season, the highlight of his resume included suiting up for one year, 2019, with the Okotoks Marauders, a Junior B club in his home province.

“If I had played (Junior A) I think I could have gotten an NCAA deal,” Running Rabbit said.

Besides being the only Indigenous player on the Panthers’ roster, Running Rabbit is the only Canadian as well.

But he’s fit in nicely.

Despite being a freshman, Running Rabbit, who is a faceoff specialist, is expected to take the majority of draws for his club this season.

In the Panthers’ season opener this past Saturday, Running Rabbit was dominant on faceoffs, winning 22 out of his 25 draws.

The Tompkins Cortland side also had a successful outing, downing the visiting Sussex County Community College 19-9.

The Panthers’ next game is Wednesday at Finger Lakes Community College.

Running Rabbit, a midfielder, is hoping to make an impact with the Panthers this season.

“I’ve been told I will be getting a fair bit of playing time,” he said.

Running Rabbit, who graduated from Strathmore High School last June, said he has adjusted well to college life, where he is taking Exercise Sciences classes.

Because of the pandemic, his schooling is hybrid right now. Half of his courses are in-person while the other half are online.

“At the start, especially in the fall semester, it did take a lot of getting used to,” he said.

Running Rabbit added he has also been forced to make some adjustments playing field lacrosse because he primarily grew up suiting up for box lacrosse teams.

Running Rabbit was fortunate enough to crack the Alberta boys’ under-19 field lacrosse club when he was just 16.

That squad competed at the nationals and captured a bronze medal.

Though he was eligible to play for the Alberta team in future years as well, Running Rabbit said his hockey commitments prevented him from doing so.

Besides playing a handful of Junior B contests in the Heritage Junior Hockey League, Running Rabbit had spent the two years prior to the pandemic toiling in the South Central Alberta Hockey League.

During the 2018-19 season he was a member of the Wheatland Chiefs’ Under-18 AA team. And then the following year he joined the Foothills Bisons’ Under-18 AA squad.

Though he is enjoying his time at Tompkins Cortland, Running Rabbit is hoping to have a short stay at the school.

“My goal is to get through the first year and see what sort of offers come at me,” he said.

Even if it takes him a couple of years to get there, Running Rabbit feels he can be valuable to an NCAA Division I team.

“Honestly, I do feel like I can play there,” he said. “It would take a lot of hard work. But I feel I’m up for the challenge.”


By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CJWE