Sometime around 9:30 tonight a bus will pull into the parking lot at Oakland Mills High School. For those inside, the long journey from Russia will have ended.
And for the families of Oakland Mills' students that will house the visitors, their journey into another culture and lifestyle -- not to mention language -- will be just beginning.
"It's going to be very interesting," said Oakland Mills boys indoor track coach Sam Singleton.
This is the sixth year that Pangaea, Inc., a nonprofit Maryland corporation whose slogan is "One Earth/People Together," has brought Russian athletes to the United States as part of its indoor track and field exchange with the Russian Federation. It's the first time a Howard County school has played host.
A delegation of 24, including 19 athletes (16 girls and three boys), will be staying with families of the Oakland Mills indoor track team.
A full week of activities have been planned, including the Pangaea track meet on Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore.
Thirty-seven teams from throughout Maryland have entered the meet, including seven from Howard County. Mount Hebron will not attend.
The athletes will spend this weekend getting to know their host families.
They will visit Washington on Monday and Tuesday, and Tuesday evening, the track team and their families will treat the delegation to a potluck dinner in the school cafeteria. They will visit Baltimore's Inner Harbor Wednesday.
On Thursday, they will attend classes at Oakland Mills before the track meet. They will shop at Potomac Mills on Friday, have a farewell party Saturday, then return to Russia on Sunday.
Singleton said a number of parents and local organizations have contributed to make things run smoothly, including Jack Drake, Steve Petro, Sue Hampshire, Chris Herdson and Wayne Gates. Apple Ford, a car dealership in Columbia, is paying for all bus transportation costs.
Singleton, who hopes to travel to Russia this summer on a similar exchange program, said Pangaea, Inc., came to him asking if Oakland Mills would play host to the athletes.
"It's a great opportunity for us to have this international cultural exchange," said Singleton.
Vezzi, Guetler resign
Howard girls soccer coach Dave Vezzi resigned this week, and his replacement might be Dave Guetler, who resigned as Hammond's girls soccer coach last week.
Vezzi, who still will coach softball in the spring, coached the Lions soccer team for four years (25-15-3).
This year's team finished fourth in the county and was 9-5 overall. He said he made the decision "with mixed emotions."
"I just need a break from it," Vezzi said. "I want to spend more time with my daughter [age 4]."
Guetler, who was 72-39-5 in eight seasons that included two state titles, teaches at Howard. He said teaching at one school and coaching at another is very difficult.
"It just got too hard to do, not being at the same school," Guetler said.
When Guetler resigned, he left open the possibility that he would coach again. Upon learning of Vezzi's decision to resign, Guetler said he might be interested in the Howard position.
"If the position is available, I'd probably apply," said Guetler, who added he had "a lot of fun" while coaching at Hammond.
Guetler said Hammond's junior varsity soccer coach, Ken Zackman, is very interested in becoming the varsity coach.
Chapelgate changes leagues
Chapelgate athletic director John Curran said the school's girls soccer team will move to the Catholic B league next fall. The team, coached by Jeff Ring, played as an independent this year.
Sokol named MVP
Junior forward Becky Sokol of Ellicott City recently was named the Most Valuable Player on Seton Keough's field hockey team.