Century's success is nearly overnight

High schools: The girls teams won many championships last year in their first season of varsity competition, topped by the Class 2A soccer title.

October 27, 2003|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Century High School athletic director Craig Walker faced plenty of demands last fall preparing for the school's first year with a varsity sports program. One thing he didn't expect to need was a trophy case.

A year later, with teams in the midst of the regional playoffs, the Knights still don't have a trophy case, but their girls teams have collected enough championship hardware to fill one.

The soccer team set the bar as high as it gets by winning the Class 2A state championship last fall. No other girls program had ever claimed a state title so quickly. The Knights also became only the third team in state tournament history to win a title in its first season of varsity competition, joining the 1971 Wilde Lake boys cross country team and the 1983 Broadneck baseball team.

Century's soccer state crown was just the beginning.

Walker's small office at the Sykesville school now overflows with the spoils of success - trophies and plaques all over the place. It's the best he can do right now for a temporary showcase.

The Knights also collected a state runner-up finish in girls lacrosse, regional championships in both soccer and lacrosse, and Carroll County girls championships in soccer, lacrosse and track and field. They shared the county girls basketball title with Westminster.

Cross country runner Rachel Hawes, who is not competing this season because of medical reasons, won the county title and finished second in the 2A state meet.

Such immediate success is enough to make an athletic director's head spin.

"I'd love to sit here and say, `Here's what happened and we're going to continue to do it,' " Walker said, "but it's just that we have a group of kids who have some athletic ability in their blood and, for some unknown reason, they all ended up here. We're going with it as long as they'll take us."

That group includes three All-Metro players - Kelly Kasper, first team and Carroll County Player of the Year in both soccer and lacrosse; Lauren Schwarzmann, second team in lacrosse; and Hawes, both first team and Carroll County Runner of the Year. Five girls played soccer, basketball and lacrosse - Kasper, Schwarzmann, Megan McGuire, Lindsay Lamont and Jessica Belsinger. Hawes also played basketball and lacrosse.

That kind of talent - which includes other strong players at the core of each sport - has been the foundation of the Knights' success, say Walker, his coaches and his players. Somehow, girls who arrived from South Carroll and Liberty high schools managed to assume their new Century identity pretty quickly.

The girls teams also had unusual chemistry for a program that brought together freshmen and sophomores when the school opened in 2001 and added a junior class in 2002.

"I'm not going to say there weren't issues from time to time, but there was nothing major," said Rose Pentz, the girls varsity lacrosse coach and Century's coordinator of support services. "We were really prepared to promote and provide opportunities for blending."

It also helped that almost all of the girls already knew each other.

"We had a lot of good talent come from the Freedom area," Schwarzmann said. "A lot of us had played together on a lot of club teams through a lot of sports. We all knew each other when we were younger, so it was always easy for us to be together."

There were some growing pains for the program, which had gotten off to a strong start with JV programs in fall 2001. A few sports, however, did compete on the varsity level, because Carroll County did not offer JV competition in cross country, golf, track and tennis.

Last fall, however, Century started playing varsity in all sports with only three-quarters of the students that other schools had.

"Our second year was probably the hardest, because we didn't have seniors," Walker said. "We were trying to compete with the other schools, who were fielding good athletes in the ninth and 10th grades, and we were taking those athletes in our program and putting them up on the varsity. Just about up and down the line, our JV teams struggled."

This fall, Century is fully loaded, and that should help not only the JV teams but also the entire boys program. Having fallen into the shadow of the tremendously successful girls teams, the boys should benefit from finally having a senior class, Walker said.

"This year is what we've been shooting for. Last year was just extra icing on the cake," Walker said. "I've been telling the coaches ever since we started, `Don't worry about what happens the first year or the second year; you're trying to build something for the third year when we have the full school and have our seniors. This will be a year where it will tell how the boys program has come along."

This will also be a telling season for the girls, because while nothing has changed within the teams, a lot has changed on the outside. The cast of players remains the same, but the Knights are no longer an unknown factor.

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