Joy of being champions knows no age


Howard At Play


WARNING: THIS column deals only with beautiful aspects of amateur sports, for young and old.

First, old: Howard County has a piece, at least, of another national soccer championship. The Camp Springs Soccer Club, which has considered Women's Soccer League of Columbia fields its home for years even though its roster counts only one Howard countian, won the over-40 women's national championship this month in Nashua, N.H.

To capture the U.S. Amateur Soccer Association's Veterans Cup, Camp Springs won four straight games, surrendering just one goal, beating a Virginia team in sudden-death overtime, 1-0, and then defeating Seattle's Copa de Vida, two-time defending national titlist, also 1-0. "You'd have thought we'd won a million dollars after that semifinal," said Ellicott City's Regina Jenkins, the team's sweeper since 1981 and only player on the field for every minute of the final four games. "We were all jumping around and yelling."

The abrupt game-winner by Calverton's Laurie Albrecht popped out of a penalty-box scramble after a corner kick with four minutes remaining in OT.

After starting nervously, the team's cloying defense and a 20th-minute goal by Claire Hanlein, of Winchester, Va., decided the 8 a.m. title match.

"We didn't yell or shout at all after that one," said Jenkins. "We just started crying. We were all so happy. We couldn't wait to get to the sidelines and be with Doc - and he was standing there crying, too."

Doc is Bill Blandford, a retired teacher, academic doctorate-holder and longtime coach at Crossland High in Prince George's County. Jenkins calls him "a father to most of us" and "the glue of the team." He has been associated with the squad since the 1970s, she said, and came from Florida to coach them in this tournament.

Jenkins, who began playing on a Hyattsville boys team that included Albrecht when both were 9, turned 40 this year and is the team's second-youngest player; the oldest, she said, just turned 50.

Actually, Jenkins said, the tournament - four 90-minute games, plus that overtime, in four exhausting days - proved relatively easier than competing in this spring's Columbia A Division, where players in their 20s and 30s predominate.

Camp Springs SC counts women who simply love the sport, many playing 50 or more games a year, indoors and outdoors. The club loves tournaments and travel - a tournament in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is on this winter's agenda, for example. "Over the years, some of our players have even planned childbirth around tournaments and games," said Jenkins.

The national title was the team's first. The 1991 squad lost on penalty kicks in the final, and the 1980 version lost to another Seattle squad. "It just means so much," said Jenkins. "It's hard to describe, but we're still so high two weeks later."

Young: Hopefully, you read last week about the Phelps Luck swim team's charity event last weekend. The rest of the story's even nicer. All 14 teams in the Columbia Neighborhood Swim League did overnight fund-raisers July 8 that totaled $22,000 in pledges for various charities and causes during swim-a-thons that double as big sleepovers, complete with tents and cooking fires. A few highlights, courtesy of CNSL supervisor Eddie Cosentino:

Thunder Hill's team kept swimmers in the water for 24 hours straight(other clubs did 12 hours), with 92 swimmers totaling 18,485 25-yard laps, raising about $2,500.

Clemens Crossing swimmers totaled 110 continuous miles in the pool. Katie Fitzenreiter, 10, led the team with 414 laps. And Kristen Duklewski, 9, handed in pledges worth $800.

Clary's Forest-Hawthorn got pledges totaling as much as $1,200 for causes related to Aaron Worley and Cristin Gildea, who died of leukemia and heart problems, respectively, as well as to help college-bound cancer patient Brittany Salmons, a former team member. Gildea's sister, Rachel, is on the team. Eileen Clegg, a team mother, warrants an assist for focusing the team on helping local kids, said team manager Annette Hart.

Other beneficiaries include research into Crohn's Disease, colitis and juvenile diabetes; Voices for Children; the county's fuel fund and food bank; Savage Volunteer Fire Department; American Red Cross; Early Education Pre-School Program for Waterloo and Deep Run elementary schools; a children's hospital, and Howard County Special Olympics.

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