Husband-wife team keeps Oakland Mills on the run Cross Country: Time is of the essence for Phil and Vicki Lane, who coach the Oakland Mills boys and girls teams -- and a whole lot more.

September 30, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Phil and Vicki Lang, the new cross country coaches at Oakland Mills, are a combination made in heaven. They would have to be if they hope to replace a legendary coach like Steve Carnahan, who hand-picked them as his replacement.

All Carnahan did was lead the boys team to eight state titles, 12 regional titles and seven county titles in 16 seasons. But he was more than just a coach. He was a caring mentor who changed people's lives.

Phil Lang was one of those people. Lang was captain of the state championship team at Oakland Mills in 1984, and he went (( on to run at UMBC and Frostburg and complete 21 marathons, including seven at Boston.

"Running helped mold my life," Lang said. "I don't know where I'd be without it. He made me a runner, and it was a tremendous honor for him to hand the program to me."

It's not only an honor. It's also a big responsibility. "This job is scary," said Vicki. "These are big shoes to fill."

Phil is officially the boys coach and Vicki the girls coach, but like everything else in their lives, they coach as a team.

They met at Frostburg through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. They have had a strong Christian commitment throughout their lives and are members of Grace Community Church in Columbia.

"It is great to be able to turn to the Lord when we have a struggle," Phil said.

Their greatest struggle seems to be time management. They have overflowing schedules. They are parents of 4-year-old Tiffany and 6-month-old Brittany.

Phil, 31, is a bank auditor for Key Bank and Trust. Vicki, 29, works part-time at home for Veteran Affairs.

Phil is also one of the top vendors at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He finished 14th in the rankings this season. That job opened the door for them them both to work as vendors at the 1994 Olympics in Atlanta and the 1997 Super Bowl in New Orleans.

"I love baseball. And I love the competition of selling at the stadium," Phil said. "It's like running a race. It's a good workout and it's a double income for six months."

It also keeps them apart a lot. But Vicki has no problem with his stadium job for now. "I don't mind it, but 10-game homestands are tough. You do get little perks like the Olympics and the Super Bowl. And it's a nice extra income."

Tiffany even was born at noon on Opening Day of 1994 -- one game Phil missed.

Despite their busy lives, the two manage to continue competitive running careers.

Phil's best marathon time was 2: 53. Vicki, the state Class 3A mile champion her junior season at Fort Hill, has run a 36: 45 10K, a 17: 59 5K and a 3: 12 marathon. In 1990 she was Howard County Strider Runner of the Year.

Until he resigned as an eight-year board member and five-year director of the Metric Marathon to take the Oakland Mills job, Phil was an active Strider.

"I'll come back to the Striders someday, but I needed to clear my plate a little," he said.

He couldn't pass up what he called an incredible opportunity to come back to coach at his high school. He had been an assistant coach for the past three seasons, but the head job is obviously a much larger commitment.

"It's been a good season so far. Very rewarding," Phil said. "Even though we have only two boys who ran all last season, it's a good group of athletes. There's team camaraderie even outside of practice."

Carnahan obviously saw something special in the pair, and hopes they will make their coaching commitment a long-term one.

"Both Phil and Vicki enjoy a love affair with running," Carnahan said. "Their experience and knowledge of cross country is vast. I fully expect that with their enthusiasm they will continue with the program until they can coach their daughters like Earl Lauer coaches his son at River Hill."

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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