What are the best high school teams in Frederick this fall?
Thanks to the coronavirus, we’ll likely have to wait until next spring to find out. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association postponed fall and winter sports until after the first semester, which ends in January, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
So to help fill the void, The Frederick News-Post thought it would be fun to ask readers to pick the best Frederick County high school teams of all-time in each sport.
Each week, we’ll feature a sport and list contenders from years past in that sport. Readers can visit www.fredericknewspost.com to vote for the team they think is best. We’ll do this for all sports, fall, winter and spring.
Each Thursday, when we list candidates for another sport, we’ll reveal the team from the previous week’s sport that got the most votes.
This week’s sport: Girls indoor track and field. May the best team win.
1982-83 Frederick Cadets
Accomplishments: Class B-C state champion, Frederick County champion
This 1982-83 Frederick team won its fourth straight state title, becoming the the first girls indoor track and field team in the state to do so.
Chalk that up as one of many achievements by legendary coach Jack Griffin, who guided all four of those state champion teams.
This was Griffin’s last year at the helm of the program. As usual, he had plenty of weapons to plug into events, starting with senior Diane Thomas.
Thomas, who went on to star at the University of North Carolina, ended her high school career with a flourish. At the state meet, she won the 300-yard run and 60-yard hurdles (the MPSSAA didn’t measure races in meters that season) and joined forces with Kim Bickford, Teresa Smith and Kelly Onley to win the 880-yard relay. Her time in the 300 (38.1) set a team and B-C state record, and she ended up winning three straight state 60-yard hurdles crowns.
Running in flats that season at the National Guard Invitational, according to The Frederick News-Post, Thomas put up a time in the 55-meter hurdles that was among the best in the nation. While no time was given in that story, Thomas still holds Frederick’s 55 hurdles record with an 8.14 she ran in 1983.
Thomas ended up being named female athlete of the year by the Maryland State Track Coaches Association. The following winter, the college freshman broke the University of North Carolina’s indoor hurdles record.
Frederick freshman Paula Royer won a state title in high jump, and the Cadets ended up trouncing second-place J.M. Bennett 72-33.25.
Any of the Frederick teams that won state crowns between 1980 and 1983 would’ve been worthy of inclusion on this list. In fact, another coach with a team on this list, one that competed years later, figured his team would’ve had a tough time tangling with those Cadet teams.
1994-95 Linganore Lancers
Accomplishments: Class 3A state champion, Frederick County champion
This was the final championship team during Linganore’s dynastic period, as the Lancers captured their sixth state title in eight years (all of them under head coach John Grim) and 10th Frederick County meet title in 11 years.
But make no mistake, this team’s success relied more on dependable athletes than mystique. And for Linganore, no one was more dependable than junior Kristen Ritter.
Ritter, who went on to compete for the University of Tennessee, won four events at the Frederick County meet, setting county records in the 800-meter run (2:21.8) and 1,600-meter run (5:23.1). She also teamed up with Jen Tessier, Heather Ulmer and Linda Kanto to set county records in the 1,600-meter relay (4:16.5) and 3,200-meter relay (10:02).
At the state meet, Ritter, Tessier, Ulmer and Kanto set a state 3A indoor record in the 3,200 relay with a 10:00.8. Ritter also placed second in the 1,600 and 800 to Walter Johnson star Sally Glynn (Ritter won both events the following year at the 2A state meet, setting 2A state marks in each race).
At the 1995 3A state meet, Linganore’s Erin Williams won the shot put, and the Lancers got plenty of points elsewhere en route to beating runner-up Paint Branch 60-42.
“We picked up a lot of quality points tonight,” Grim told The Frederick News-Post. “We got a lot of seconds, thirds and fourths.”
Earlier that winter, the Lancers won their fourth straight county meet crown, edging Frederick 115-114. Don’t penalize them for failing to dominate. The Cadets boasted a slew of talented underclassmen, such as Michelle Higginbottom and Valerie Williams, who would make them a force to reckon with for years to come (see below).
Linganore would add another state title in 2006, giving it a Frederick County-best seven.
1995-96 Frederick Cadets
Accomplishments: Class 3A state champion
The Cadets won their first state crown in 13 years, and they did so in dominant fashion, rolling to an 80-48 win over runner-up Walter Johnson.
After taking the 3A West region title, Frederick’s long-awaited fifth state title was hardly surprising.
“I think our depth was the difference,” Cadets coach Frank Strakonsky told The Frederick News-Post back then. “It was close between us and Walter Johnson during the first third of the meet. After that we began pulling away.”
Leading the way was junior Michelle Higginbottom, who later excelled at Mount St. Mary’s. She won the 300 and 500 runs and ran on the winning 800 relay team with Valerie Williams, Mardy Przywarty and Stacey Simon.
Williams, who later earned All-America honors at Arizona State University, won the 55 dash and was second in the high jump for Frederick, while Przywarty was second in the 55 hurdles.
Frederick is one of the teams on this list that didn’t win a county title, but it’s the only team listed that never had the opportunity to try for such a prize. The 1996 Frederick County meet was canceled because of a blizzard.
But they did win the county meet in 1997, when Higginbottom, Williams and Przywarty all returned.
2008-09 Middletown Knights
Accomplishments: Class 2A state champion
Despite being a quality program for years, Middletown didn’t win its first state title until 2008.
The Knights wasted little time winning their next one, defending their Class 2A crown by pulling out a 68-60 win over runner-up River Hill.
“All heart,” said Knights coach Frank Davis, whose team had just won its fourth straight track state title, counting outdoor crowns the previous two springs, with largely the same cast of athletes.
A cornerstone of all those championship teams was Brittney Caudle, and the senior enjoyed a huge day at the 2009 state indoor meet. Caudle set 2A state records in the 1,600 (5:10.19) and 800 (2:16.85) runs, mounting comebacks to win each race.
Brittney Caudle’s sister, sophomore Jenna Caudle, helped pull off another crucial comeback, overcoming a 30-meter deficit on the final lap of the 4x200 relay to send her team, which included Sarah Wrieden, Kathryn Papuchis and Alycia Giauque, to a win.
Middletown’s Liana Kopp also won the pole vault.
While the Knights didn’t win the county title, they did give a tussle to mighty TJ, which won its third straight crown by beating second-place Middletown 99-91.
2010-11 Thomas Johnson Patriots
Accomplishments: Frederick County champion, Class 4A state runner-up
With a future U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier leading the way, the 2010-11 Thomas Johnson Patriots won their fifth straight Frederick County crown and placed higher at the 4A state meet, second, than any county team had ever placed at the time.
TJ’s strength in distance events helped it thrive during this era, and that didn’t change after the Patriots lost standout distance runner Stephanie Bryan to graduation following the 2010 season.
By the time the 2011 marquee meets around, the Patriots were garnering plenty of points in the longer races, and their top weapon in that department was Savanna Plombon. Plombon earned Frederick News-Post Runner of the Year honors, went on to run for West Virginia and qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Marathon, which were held at Atlanta on Feb. 29.
Plombon didn’t finish the race at the Trials, but her ability to earn a spot in such a prestigious event — she qualified with a time of 2 hours, 43 minutes, 56 seconds at the Grandma’s Marathon 2019 — shows what an athlete she is.
At the 2011 states, Plombon won the 800 run (her first state crown) and placed second in the 1,600 by less than a second. At the county meet, she won the 800 and 1,600 while running the anchor leg on the winning 1,600 relay team.
TJ distance runners Kristen Galligan and Annie Powell also earned Frederick News-Post all-county first-team honors that season. Galligan won the 3,200 run at the Frederick County meet and placed fourth in that event at states. Powell placed fifth in 800 and 1,600 at states.
The 2010-11 Patriots could pick up points in field events, too. Sophomore Tamara Ovejera won the county title in the shot put and placed third in that event at the state meet, while Breana Brownfield was second at the states in the high jump.
Such showings helped the Becky Somerville-coached Patriots place second to state champ Northwest, which won 69-47.
2014-15 Oakdale Bears
Accomplishments: Class 2A state champion
We’ve already held votes to determine Frederick County’s best swim teams, but it’s worth revisiting the 2012 Frederick County Diving Championships. That’s where a pair of Oakdale freshmen, Jackie McNulty and Abby Stultz, finished first and third, respectively.
A Frederick News-Post article about that event claimed both girls planned to “try track” in the spring. They must’ve liked the sport because rather than continuing to dive in future winters, they competed for Oakdale’s indoor track and field team.
And as seniors in 2014-15, both former divers helped the Bears bring home their first indoor track and field state crown.
At the state meet, Stultz won titles in the 55 hurdles and high jump and placed second in the shot put, while McNulty capped off a banner day for the Bears by winning the pole vault with a state-record height — for all four MPSSAA classifications — of 13 feet, 3.25 inches.
Both were headed for Division I programs — Stultz to Penn State, McNulty to Stanford. Unfortunately for opposing teams, those two weren’t the Bears’ only weapons.
At states, Oakdale’s Charlotte Kowalk won the 800 run, placed fourth in the 1,600 and ran the anchor leg of a 1,600 relay team that placed fifth, while Alaina McCracken was third in the 55 hurdles and Jamie Farley was third in the 500 run.
The Chris Lewis-coached Bears, who had won county-meet titles the previous two seasons, took the state crown by beating second-place Liberty 73-45.
2019-20 Urbana Hawks
Accomplishments: Class 4A state champion, Frederick County champion
After becoming the first Frederick County girls indoor track and field team to win a Class 4A state crown in 2019, Urbana accomplished the feat again the very next year.
Either of Urbana’s state championship teams could’ve been on this list. But this team’s 77-32 win over runner-up Charles H. Flowers was slightly more convincing than the Hawks’ 68-40 win over Northwest in 2019. Also, this is a rare chance to include a viable candidate from pandemic-plagued 2020, which shut down high school sports for most of the year.
The Hawks had a place-winner in 10 of 13 events at the state meet, paving their path to another title.
Leading the way for Urbana was Elon University-bound senior and Frederick News-Post track athlete of the year Piper Jons, who ran anchor legs on winning 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams at states. In the former, Jons surged to erase a gap of roughly 50 meters to deliver the victory.
The Hawks also won the 4x800 relay (with University of North Carolina-bound Ella Auderset running the anchor leg) on a day when all three of their wins came in relays. The teamwork that produced those triumphs, coupled with overall depth, removed any suspense from Urbana’s title defense.
“We are still the smallest school in 4A. Yet we are still here battling with the best of the best,” Hawks coach C.J. Ecalono said. “That’s the most satisfying thing.”
By that point, Urbana had become the team to beat in Frederick County, capturing its sixth straight county-meet crown to tie Linganore (1985-1990) for most consecutive titles.
They were loaded with standout performers, including versatile, New York University-bound senior Oni Scott, who earned Frederick News-Post field athlete of the year honors. Scott placed seventh in the shot put and sixth in the high jump at states, while winning the high jump and placing fourth in both the shot put and 55 hurdles at counties.
Other Frederick News-Post first-teamers from the Hawks were runners Auderset, Karly McDonnell, Sara Jarman and Lydia Robling and high jumper Ezri Scott.