- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Don't make too much of the McDonough Rams and Thomas Stone Cougars athletic T-shirts being worn at the boys soccer practices of the brand new St. Charles High School, about to open its doors for the first time when another school year begins in three days.
And it's actually normal for some of the St. Charles cheerleaders to shout, 'Go Rams!' or 'Go Warriors!' or yell out the wrong school colors in practice. There is no secret desire for the spirited faces of the St. Charles Spartans to cheer for county rivals McDonough or the La Plata Warriors.
These are just normal occurrences that come with the inception of a new high school. St. Charles is comprised of athletes who used to attend fellow high schools La Plata, Stone and McDonough.
Now their residences are zoned in Spartan country. Soon they will be clad in the school colors of blue and green once the preseason practices in fall sports give way to regular season games and matches.
“We're merging from six schools: three high schools, three middle schools. So it's six personalities coming into one,” St. Charles head boys soccer coach Matt Chisholm said after Monday's practice. “[Our St. Charles soccer T-shirts] are ordered, and [my players] are giving me money right now for the shirts. During Saturday's practice, we had a Stone shirt, a McDonough shirt, a [Benjamin] Stoddert [Middle School] shirt and a Milton Somers [Middle School] shirt.
“But [the players] don't say anything about [wearing their former school T-shirts to our practice]. They're not territorial. It's just that's the soccer shirt they have to wear.”
The 2004 La Plata High School graduate, who played soccer and tennis for the Warriors, was previously a middle school teacher in the county. He's teaching social studies at St. Charles.
“We're working on the St. Charles stuff [for our players to wear]. It's a work in progress,” Chisholm assured. St. Charles cheerleading head coach Brandi Stewart can relate to Chisholm, awaiting the arrival of Spartans athletic apparel and equipment to the school.
“I'm waiting on cheerleading uniforms to arrive. Every day I come in here, I'm like, 'Is one of these boxes mine?' Stewart said Wednesday as she stood in the gym between the cheerleading mat and the array of boxes to be unpacked. “[Our cheerleaders] are all excited with it being a brand new school, being the first varsity cheerleading squad [and] setting the bar high. It's exciting for the girls.”
St. Charles features 17 varsity cheerleaders, only one of them a junior, and 22 on the junior varsity squad.
“Yes, they do. They slip up,” Stewart said smiling about her 11 varsity transfers who sometimes mention their former high school mascot or colors during St. Charles cheerleading practice. “I have a good group of girls. All eyes are on St. Charles to see what we're going to have. Everybody wants to see what [the St. Charles] football team is going to look like, what's the cheerleading team going to look like, what's the volleyball … [and so forth].”
Other sports essentials that have arrived to the school were still being unpacked from countless shipping boxes sitting inside the gym earlier this week.
“I worked a lot of the summer,” St. Charles athletic director Jen Smith said. “When I had off, I was working. I worked all month of July dealing with inventory. The process of checking in all inventory for all the sports, it's a lot of work. And [inventory] is still coming in, from med kits to scrimmages vests to kneepads for volleyball, you name it.
“Being a new school, it's been a learning experience because I didn't realize what goes into everything. You have to start your own boosters, and it's coming along. You have to build a strong foundation.”
The newly constructed boosters club took root the end of June and has held three meetings so far.
This is not Smith's first rodeo as an athletic director. She fulfilled the position at McDonough for four years (2005-09).
“I was interested in being AD again so I took a chance to interview,” Smith added, noting St. Charles hired her in April. “There was a lot of competition [for the position] so I was excited to get it. I'm glad I have the background [as an AD] from McDonough because I know scheduling and I know all [the other ADs in the conference].”
So everything is still fresh for Charles County's seventh public high school and the youngest member of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference. But amid all the preparatory growing pains for the administration and staff that come with such a new school in addition to the multitude of feeder schools that comprise the student body, there is no shortage of Spartans pride at St. Charles.
“It's crazy to think new high school, new beginning for everything, so you just have to come out here and give it your all,” St. Charles junior boys soccer player Rian Myers said while sporting a Stone soccer T-shirt at practice, revealing where he used to attend. “I'm [not going to be seeing] all my friends from Thomas Stone [on a daily basis], but I'm getting old friends back from La Plata [when I attended Somers] that are coming to [St. Charles]. All my friends play soccer, too, so it's going to be a really big rivalry when we play Thomas Stone.”
The Hughesville resident, a center-midfielder already named captain by his St. Charles coaches, is among the oldest athletes on the team. St. Charles opens without a senior class in its first year. It will feature all four grades, freshman through senior classes, next school year. So Myers and his fellow juniors have the rare fortune of being the top class at St. Charles for two straight school years given the new nature of the institution.
“It's weird knowing that coming into this school as a junior, all the freshmen and sophomores are going to look up to only the junior class. They don't have a senior class to look up to,” added Myers, who last played high school soccer on Stone's junior varsity unit as a freshman. “It's really all eyes on us [juniors]. I'm liking how the team's looking so far, I'm liking how the school's looking, I hope everything this year is going to turn out great. I think we should be competitive with most of the [SMAC] teams].”
The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, whose Regency Furniture Stadium is located right beside St. Charles and its front entrance faces the practice soccer field, is no longer the only sports show in this part of Waldorf. Here come the Spartans.
“When you think of the Spartan pride, you're thinking of the strong Greek culture. We want to build that here,” Smith said. “I love the [school] colors. They're easy to work with, and they're different from any other county school.”
Having no senior class this school year is already having a major impact on the St. Charles sports program. Only the football, volleyball and cheerleader squads have a junior varsity team as of Wednesday heading into the fall season due to there being just three classes in the school. In most instances in high school sports, seniors are the faces of the varsity level.
“With it being a brand new school, everybody is so excited about the atmosphere and that's why we had the number of girls we had to try out and why we have a JV team,” St. Charles head varsity volleyball coach Darrelle Smith said.
The boys soccer team is relying on three juniors, three sophomores and eight freshmen for its varsity ranks, obviously unable to field a junior varsity outfit in the sport.
Jen Smith is hoping to boost the player numbers for the boys and girls soccer teams, as well as increase the turnout for the football program, between the new-student orientations this week and the start of the school year on Monday. St. Charles football does have enough players for a freshman team in addition to its varsity and junior varsity levels.
“We have a little bit more players in girls soccer than boys soccer,” Jen Smith said Tuesday. “We need four to five more girls to field a JV team. That's what we're looking to do.”
And there were not enough players to comprise a field hockey team, a scenario the athletic director was hopeful would improve with the student orientations and the start of the school year.
Smith was the McDonough field hockey head coach for seven seasons (1998-2004). She was also the head field hockey coach last year at North Point after serving as the assistant with the program the three previous seasons. So the sport is among her passions. She transferred to North Point in January 2010 where she was also involved with coaching girls lacrosse for four years.
“That's the plan,” the athletic director said about having a field hockey team ready to compete once its SMAC schedule starts in early September. “I'm not sure if we'll meet that goal. I love the sport. I'm going to recruit [within our school] as much as I can, hoping we have enough players when the season starts.”
St. Charles just hired its head field hockey coach, Tiffany Hubb, on Monday and, as of Tuesday, Jen Smith noted there were just three players signed up for the team.
St. Charles field hockey already had scheduled scrimmages for the next two Tuesdays before knowing about the team's uncertain status for the upcoming season.