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KNIGHT MOVE: Princeton resident Chris Larsen goes to goal this past spring in his senior season with the Army lacrosse team. Larsen, a former Lawrenceville School standout, scored a career-high 11 points on seven goals and four assists this year to help the Black Knights to an 11-5 record.
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Larsen to Utilize Army Lax Experience As He Heads Into Ft. Benning Training

By Bill Alden

As a new cadet at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point in September 2001, Chris Larsen knew that the 9-11 terror attacks were destined to change the course of his Army career.

"It made you think," recalled Larsen, a Princeton resident and former lacrosse star at the Lawrenceville School. "It made you realize that you had to do the job and you weren't going to just be training. Before that, you were training to train others."

Larsen, who went on to earn four letters in lacrosse before graduating from West Point this past May, is starting the job this week as he heads to Fort Benning, Ga. for his Officer Basic Course.

Speaking like the midfielder he was for the Black Knights, Larsen vowed that lacrosse sticks as well as rifles will be part of his training.

"I think five of my lacrosse teammates are going to be at Fort Benning with me," said the 6'2, 210-pound Larsen, who scored a career-high 11 points on seven goals and four assists this spring to help Army go 11-5 and advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

"We will be taking our lacrosse sticks with us. We'll get out and throw the ball around a little to blow off some steam."

For Larsen, lacrosse proved to be a highlight of his Army experience. "Lacrosse was the best part of West Point for me, it made things enjoyable" asserted Larsen, a four-year letterman for the Black Knights. "There are some frustrating things about being at the academy and it was great to go out every afternoon and practice and have some fun."

Larsen grew to love lacrosse during his time at John Witherspoon middle school. "Baseball had been my spring sport but then I started with the YMCA lacrosse program in seventh grade," said Larsen. "I liked lacrosse right away. You got to be physical and you were always getting to do something on the field."

Going on to the Lawrenceville School, Larsen emerged as a star attacker for the Big Red. "I had a really good experience there," said Larsen, who also competed for the Lawrenceville swimming and water polo teams. "We had really good teams. Allan Fitzpatrick was the coach my last two years, he was tough but good. I really committed myself to the sport. I realized I wasn't the greatest athlete so I had to work hard."

By his junior year at Lawrenceville, Larsen had concluded that he wanted to go to one of the service academies.

"I liked the idea that they wanted a well-rounded person, not someone who was just good in academics," said Larsen. "Army showed interest in me as a lacrosse player and I showed interest in them. It worked both ways."

Once at West Point, though, Larsen had to work hard to get on the field for the Black Knights. "I wasn't the number one recruit," said Larsen with a laugh, noting that his task was made harder by going from 180 pounds down to 162 during the six-week "Beast" training new cadets undergo at the beginning of their West Point careers.

"I worked hard on getting bigger. I was up to 215 pounds by my junior year. I knew that I was never going to be a flashy player so I worked on my shot and getting stronger."

Larsen's diligence paid off as he enjoyed a strong 2005 season, making a key contribution as an offensive midfielder. "I felt I had a great senior year," said Larsen, who appeared in just one game as a freshman and later struggled with a stress fracture in his shin during his junior campaign.

"I got on the field a lot, I really savored it. We had 15 seniors on the team that were really close. It was great to go out with those guys."

In the process, Larsen gained some valuable lessons. "I learned that you had to work hard on what you are good at and maximize your strengths," maintained Larsen.

"I also learned to lead on the field and help the younger guys. In the middle of the winter when its 22 below with the wind, some people may not want to go out and play. You have to be tough and get guys to play hard no matter what the conditions are."

Larsen is eager to apply those lessons as he starts his military life after West Point.

"I'm ready to start something new," said Larsen, a second lieutenant who has chosen to serve in the infantry branch of the Army. "I need to get used to real army life where nobody is watching over you to make sure that you do things right."

In Larsen's view, being in the infantry is the best way to make things go right when and if he gets sent to the war in Iraq.

"I chose the infantry because I want to be one of the guys who is right there," added Larsen, who will do additional training at the Ranger School and the Airborne School after his 16-week stint at Fort Benning. "I want to be with the best guys and to be trained for what I am doing."

After going through a lot of battles with the guys on the Army lax team, Larsen should be well prepared for the challenges ahead.

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