Chapelgate girls basketball coach Jim Barber has long said that his program would not be ready to graduate from the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference to the A division for at least three years.
Barber's reservations proved prophetic as the reigning B Conference-champion Yellow Jackets suffered their worst loss of the season in a 68-48 thrashing by the A Conference's St. John's-Prospect Hall on Monday in Marriottsville.
For the past two seasons, Chapelgate and the Vikings have established a rivalry in which St. John's emerged with the B title in 2000-01 and the Yellow Jackets prevailed last season.
But the Vikings moved up to the A Conference, and although they are just 4-4 in the league (10-5 overall), they have learned from playing the likes of No. 1 St. Frances, No. 3 Institute of Notre Dame and No. 8 Archbishop Spalding, among others.
"Playing against that kind of competition helps them a lot," said Chapelgate junior guard Heather Landis. "They had something to prove because they're in the A."
St. John's displayed what it had learned as the Vikings harassed the Yellow Jackets into 23.9 percent shooting (16-for-67) from the field. They also took a page out of Chapelgate's playbook by out-rebounding the Yellow Jackets 48-26 and starting the fast break, which contributed to 47.3 percent field-goal shooting (26-for-55).
"In the A division, we have to be at our best," said senior forward Kenan Cole, who led all scorers with 25 points and 17 rebounds. "The competition is that much better. We tried to take what we learned from the A division and be faster and crisper."
Landis led Chapelgate (9-2) with 13 points, four rebounds and four steals. Off the bench, junior guard Joanna Price chipped in 10 points and two steals.
For Barber, the setback was a reminder that his program won't be ready for the move from the B Conference until it can gain consistent, uninterrupted access to a weight room and a practice gym.
"It shows me that three or four years is the right timetable," he said. "This puts us in a situation to learn and grow. To me, this is a very positive experience."
Moving up quickly
Had the Class 2A-1A state indoor track and field meet taken place three weeks ago, Caren Howard of Oakland Mills would have been a state champion.
At a meet involving 12 teams from Anne Arundel and Howard counties at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover, the senior threw the shot 37 feet, 8 inches.
That distance would have easily won the event in all three classifications (Class 4A-3A, 3A-2A and 2A-1A) at last season's state indoor meet.
"It definitely felt like a good throw," said Howard, whose previous best was 36-5. "I threw it coming back from winter break, and I was shocked because I hadn't done much over the break."
Scorpions assistant coach Bryan Winfield, who has been working with Howard, credits a renewed commitment to the weight room and an emphasis on watching techniques and drills on videotape.
"I was a little bit surprised, but I knew she had it in her," he said. "I always tell her she can do better after every meet, but she always looks at me like I'm trying to psyche her up. ... The sky's the limit for her."
Howard knows her greatest challenge will come from Atholton senior Lindsay Grigoriev in the Ivan Walker County, the Class 2A-1A Central regional and state championships.
"We've become friendly competitors," Howard said of Grigoriev, who owns the county meet's shot put record of 39-7. "She's become someone I might ask advice from. But I hope to beat her throw."
Rolling along indoors
Count Craig Shale as among those surprised by the success of his Glenelg Country indoor girls soccer team.
Shale, who has coached the Dragons to two straight appearances in the IAAM B Conference championship game and a title in the 2000-01 season, figured he had a talented yet young squad that would make its share of mistakes.
So far, Glenelg Country has been flawless in winning its first seven games of the season and outscoring its opponents 59-9.
"We're probably ahead of where I thought we'd be," Shale said after the Dragons defeated defending champion Maryvale Prep, 4-2, on Friday. "They've definitely exceeded my expectations, but there's a lot of work to do."
Junior forward Courtney Hoke appears to be a lock for her third consecutive All-Star selection as she leads Glenelg Country with 23 goals.
Senior forward Katie Bauer has scored 12, while sophomore midfielder Kate McGlaughlin has nine goals and is fully recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered during the loss to Maryvale Prep in last season's title game.
Freshman Rachel Coulter has been outstanding in the net, and sophomores Jackie DesRoches and Melissa Gold anchor the defense.
"I thought it would be a rebuilding year," said Hoke, who is on pace to score 46 goals in 14 regular-season games. "This year, we're stronger than the year we won. I think our defense is so much stronger than it has been."