Money woes dash indoor track hopes

Harford County's denial of varsity status to sport frustrates Fallston coach


High Schools

January 19, 2003|By Edward Lee and Jeff Zrebiec | Edward Lee and Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

David Fender isn't sure how much longer he can keep up the fight.

For six years, the Fallston indoor track and field coach has lobbied the Harford County Board of Education to sanction the sport as a recognized athletic forum in the county.

And every year, his proposal is turned down by the board - a pattern that is beginning to grate on Fender.

"It gets discouraging, having talked with people who have tried prior to me," he said. "You fight for a while until you don't have much left. Then you hope somebody will come and pick it up."

Harford is not the only county in the state that does not fund indoor track, thereby attaching the "club" label to the sport. But Fender said the county sponsored indoor track as a varsity sport in 1989 before rescinding the recognition due to a lack of funds.

Forest Wiest, the county's coordinator of athletics, said a sport must meet seven requirements to be approved for varsity status. Indoor track meets five criteria, including student interest and qualified coaches. But Wiest said the sport falls short in availability of facilities to practice and funding.

"It's a lack of money," said Wiest, who presented a cost analysis to the board that indicated it would cost about $60,000 to sponsor seven meets for the nine county public schools. "The cost of everything continues to rise, and school boards can fund only so many things."

Fender said he is cognizant of the fiscal crunch. But he believes that athletes who would ordinarily try out for indoor track now stay away because they don't want to participate in a sport that does not have a county championship meet.

Fender also said other schools backed by their counties have a distinct advantage in the spring in outdoor track.

"When everybody has had three to four months of training [in indoor], it shows," he said. "The performances aren't there. We don't start peaking until late spring."

Showdown of surprises

At the beginning of the season, few would have predicted that this Thursday's girls basketball game between Fallston and C. Milton Wright would produce the front-runner in the county.

The Cougars are 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the county, and C. Milton Wright improved to 6-4, 5-0 with two wins this week.

"We all know that this is a big game," said Mustangs first-year coach Nicole Nimmo, a former standout at the school. "We're focusing on John Carroll on Tuesday, but Fallston is in the backs of all our minds."

C.M. Wright is led by 5-foot-11 sophomore center Janine Luber (10.2 points and eight rebounds per game) and junior forward Courtney White (5.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg).

Fallston counters with junior guard Kelly Heier (nine ppg, 3.1 steals), 5-11 senior center Whitney Griffith (8.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and senior forward Alison Kelly (6.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg).

"We were extremely disappointed last year that we didn't do better in the county, and we are seeing this year what we hoped to see last year," said Alice Puckett, who coaches the Cougars along with Vern Brown.

Close calls

Former Bel Air wrestling coach Keith Watson is taking his first year as coach of John Carroll, a member of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference, in stride - and he's had to.

The Patriots (7-9-1, 2-3) have persevered despite losing five matches by a total of 11 points.

This Hawk is soaring

A season marred by injury and illness has perked up slightly for the North Harford boys basketball team, thanks to senior guard Jake Ayers.

Ayers, 5-9, leads the county in scoring at just more than 20 points a game. In three games this week, Ayers tallied 57 points, including a game-high 26 as North Harford (3-9, 2-5) edged Century, 59-55.

"Of all the kids in our program, he's by far the one kid who has improved the most," Hawks coach Dave Iampieri said.

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