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County athletes make strides this fall campaign


Staff writer

St. Mary’s County saw a host of standouts this season from cross country to field hockey to football and they had a lot to say within the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference and the Washington Athletic Conference.

The Leonardtown Raiders made history on the field hockey field, winning the SMAC title after defeating conference powerhouse Patuxent as head coach Mia Finkleston was able to make that mark with daughter Abby Finkleston on her roster.

Abby Finkleston was awarded the All-SMAC Most Outstanding Player and Mia Finkleston was honored as the All-SMAC Coach of the Year. Leonardtown finished with an undefeated conference record of 12-0 and 15-1 overall.

“This SMAC title was long overdue for Leonardtown High School,” Mia Finkleston said. “I think the staff has developed a team of hard working, very fit, tenacious young women and the reputation will continue.”

Mia Finkleston said her team mixed work and play successfully and it showed in how much the team had fun.

She handed out team awards and co-Most Valuable Player honors went to Jaclyn Sherman and Abby Finkleston. The sportsmanship awards went to Angie Goldsborough and Christine Bauk.

“I think this year was fantastic all around,” Mia Finkleston said. “The girls themselves were very driven. The captains were instrumental in getting the team together and the coaching staff was cohesive. I was glad that some of our new practice strategies helped to get them ready to beat Patuxent and be undefeated in SMAC.”

Leonardtown’s boys soccer team also captured a SMAC title, its second straight, and the fall season wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Raiders football team that upset the Patuxent Panthers, a frequent contender in the Class 2A South Region, this season.

The win for head coach Mike Nines and his team made sure that the Panthers could not have a share of the SMAC title, which went to 3A state finalist Huntingtown and McDonough.

The Raiders’ 5-5 overall record was the team’s best mark since 1997, which included the team’s first win over Chopticon since 1994. They finished a fifth-best 5-3 in the conference.

“It felt great to beat Patuxent,” Nines said. “It was the first time in school history. It was great to reach our second goal of getting to .500 and to do that on senior night in front of our crowd and against a great team was amazing. The whole team worked so hard in the offseason. We won all of our games at that time. I’m so proud of the teams commitment and they deserve it all.”

Over at Great Mills, junior cross country runner David Strickland set high goals for himself this season and won the Class 4A East Region championships in 16 minutes 23 seconds. Strickland, an All-SMAC first-team selection and All-County boys Athlete of the Year, finished second at the regional meet last year as a sophomore.

The entire Great Mills boys cross country team qualified to compete at the state level for the 4A state championships. Kevin DiCola, Jeremy Pence, Brad Post, Robert Romano, Matthew Sebacher and Xavier Stansbury joined Strickland.

“Everyone is really supportive because we have a lot of team support,” Strickland said. “It was nice that everybody was celebrating my win, but I made sure to give that back to them, too.”

The Hornets finished 15th in the state at Hereford High School in Baltimore County. Strickland finished 18th for the second straight year with a time of 17:11.8

The Great Mills volleyball team also made a name for themselves this season, finishing 7-5 overall with new head coach Bill Plotner.

Chopticon’s field hockey team finished 7-5 overall. Senior forward Jessica Belfield led the county in goals scored with 16 to go along with four assists. She was also recognized as an All-SMAC second-team selection.

St. Mary’s Ryken’s football team finished 7-3 under first-year head coach Jerry Franks.

The Knights set marks for the most wins in a season in program history at seven, the longest winning streak in program history at six games, the most wins at home in a single season at five and most shutout victories in a single season at four.

The Knights field hockey team reached the conference semifinals after finishing a second-place 6-2 in the WCAC during the regular season.

Staff writer James A. McCray III contributed to this report.