Giving an assist to environment

When she's not busy playing lacrosse, Century senior Jess Makowski is leading a project to build a drainage pond at the school that will help to keep the Chesapeake Bay clean.

April 12, 2006|By RICH SCHERR | RICH SCHERR,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jess Makowski has spent the early weeks of the girls lacrosse season helping to fill a large void in Century's rebuilding defense.

When not on the field, however, the senior has devoted much of her time to actually creating a far more sizable hole - this one alongside the student parking lot.

Makowski is spearheading a project to build an environmentally friendly drainage pond, which when completed this June will serve as both an educational tool for other students and a filter for runoff that otherwise would end up in the Chesapeake Bay.

The pond will sit up the hill from a storm drain. When it rains, native Maryland plants located within - everything from Jack in the Pulpit to Creeping Phlox - will help filter runoff from the parking lot, such as motor oil, before it can reach the drain, and eventually the bay.

"This will absorb a lot of that run-off and help filter it, so we don't get excess nutrients going into the bay, which is a big problem right now," Makowski said. "I don't think people realize that if we don't take care of the bay, then you're going to lose all those things that you enjoy so much. You're going to lose your blue crabs, you're going to lose your oysters and it's not going to be the bay you once knew."

As part of a school project, she has spent the past 10 months doing everything from writing grant proposals to completing her design to actually attempting to dig out the 3-foot-deep hole, which at its widest is 10 feet across and 13 feet long.

"My friends and I started to, but it's really hard to dig that much," said Makowski, who got help from the county on the digging.

These days, she's spending most of her energy on lacrosse, playing a key role in helping the Knights retool their defense after graduating All-County defenders Alicia Burkhart (Oregon), Jess Kaminkow (Columbia) and Molly Gamble (not playing), and midfielders Rachel Hawes (Ohio State) and Megan McGuire (Penn State).

The early season has been particularly challenging for Makowski, who has shifted to defense after spending last season as an offensive midfielder. Though she was a second-team All-County defender in field hockey last fall, she said the techniques are quite different.

"It's been kind of difficult," she said. "I've never really played defense before, so it's kind of something new for me. But we're all willing to work hard to make our defense better, and we have good players who can do that."

Chief among them is junior Maureen Onda, who last year started on defense alongside three seniors after sitting out as a freshman with a knee injury. The presence of senior defensive midfielder Kelly Burgoyne and returning goalie Sarah deFerrari also is helping to soften the blow.

"We definitely have progressed as a group together," Onda said. "It's really hard starting out with all new girls and just kind of getting a feel for each other, but we've come so far this year that it's amazing."

That's been evident this season. Shooting for its fourth straight trip to the state finals, Century has started 4-0, including a recent 13-12 overtime win against county power Winters Mill. The Knights were scheduled to face Thomas Johnson on the road last night.

"It's been challenging, but I did have some go-tos last year that had a chance to play in some of those [defensive] positions," Knights coach Rose Pentz said. "I'm relying on them to sort of take control, then fill in where I need to with some new players."

That was a theme for Century last year, as well, following the graduation of Carroll County co-Players of the Year Kelly Kasper (Maryland) and Lauren Schwarzmann (Johns Hopkins). Though few expected the Knights to repeat their string of successes, they did just that, filling in where necessary and again advancing to the Class 2A-1A state title game.

"You definitely want to take a tradition like that and carry it on," Makowski said. "I think people underestimate our talent as a team, and they don't expect a lot out of us. They didn't expect us to go very far last year, and we took it to states. Our team is so good at adapting to what we need to work on."

Makowski knows there's still plenty to work on away from the field, as well.

The pond is just part of her larger "Schoolyard Habitat Area," which also will include gardens designed to attract native butterflies and birds.

Once the project is completed, she must then send a final report to the Chesapeake Bay Project, which - after several months of her tedious grant writing - provided the funding. She also plans to write a manual that will instruct future students on how to take care of the pond, as well as a mock grant, allowing others to more easily apply for future funding should repairs become necessary.

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