Before heading back into the classroom to begin the new school year, athletes on St. Mary’s County fall sports teams began their seasons with the first official day of tryouts and practices on Wednesday, which also marked the opening day across the state for public schools.

“It feels good to be back and running with my teammates and training for the [cross country] season,” Chopticon rising senior Blake Davis said.

For Braves rising junior Zach Wedding, reuniting with his teammates feels good for the group to begin establishing their bond for the grind of the lengthy season ahead.

“It feels good to be back, especially after what felt like a long summer,” Wedding said. “Sometimes it is not nice to run by yourself, so it’s good running back with the boys and getting our bond back together. I am looking forward to this season.”

Last season, the Chopticon’s boys cross country team finished the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference regular season with an undefeated 13-0 record and captured the Class 3A South Region championship crown.

“We had I think two seniors in our top seven, so we are returning a good group this upcoming year. I think we can win SMAC and regionals,” rising Braves junior Jeff Wedding said. “This upcoming season should be a good one. We have a lot of potential and a lot of our boys have gotten a heck of a lot better. I think at least four of our boys can get under 18 minutes, so that is definitely something to look forward to.”

Rising Chopticon juniors Weston Van Erp and Doug Hoover are eager to contribute to the team this year after working hard to improve over the summer.

“This summer, I really focused on a lot of mileage and building up the cardiorespiratory endurance for this season,” Van Erp said.

Hoover, in his second year of cross country, is excited to push himself to keep up with his teammates.

“Last season was OK. I feel like I could have done better with my first cross country season,” Hoover said. “I’ve learned how to pace myself a lot better, and I trained a lot over the summer. I am ready to keep up with these boys now.”

On the girls side, Braves rising senior Sara Prettyman was feeling a mix of emotions about her last first day of tryouts with the cross country team.

“It feels very nostalgic thinking this is my last time with everyone at tryouts,” Prettyman said. “Plus having everyone that graduated and not seeing them back in addition to all the new people that are fast can kind of be intimidating. There are lots of those types of emotions for me today.”

For Chopticon rising junior Rosemary Wild, the emotions on the first day of tryouts were mostly all happiness and excitement to be back with everyone.

“It feels great to be back out with the team and I am really excited for this season,” Wild said.

At Great Mills High School, head field hockey coach Hannah Morse returns for her third season at the helm for the Hornets.

“I’m really excited for this season,” Morse said. “I graduated two amazing seniors, so those are two spots I’m looking to fill. We have four seniors this year and a lot of new faces as well.”

Joining Morse on the coaching staff this year for the Hornets is Chopticon graduate Emily Gayo and Patuxent graduate Megan Rice.

“We have head coach Hannah and a lot of other awesome assistant coaches that are going to help us get prepared so we can go out and show our best effort in games this year,” Great Mills rising senior Lily Simmerman said.

Simmerman, a four-year varsity field hockey player, reflected on how far the program has come since her freshman year as she began her final first day of tryouts.

“I started playing field hockey freshman year and I’ve been on the team all four years, but I’ve really liked to see how the program has grown,” Simmerman said. “When my senior class started as freshmen, we didn’t have a JV team. We had a lot of fun, but we weren’t as prepared as we are for this upcoming season.”

Even in her fourth year, Simmerman noted the feelings and emotions she was experiencing on the first day about having to set the tone for the new players trying out and the underclassmen.

“It is nerve-wracking [on the first day] even though it is my fourth year because there is still this feeling like I have to perform and do well to show the new players that you have to put in effort and keep trying,” Simmerman said. “It is really fun to see all the new girls come out and want to learn, even the ones who haven’t played before.”

The first day of tryouts for Great Mills rising senior Anastacia Doran brought forth a mix of emotions including nostalgia looking back at how the program has grown over the last four years and some pressure as well.

“Since [my freshman year] we have gotten a new coach and the program has grown so much. Honestly, this has been a dream come true from freshman year when we didn’t have a JV team and we had to play on the baseball outfield,” Doran said. “Finally we have been able to get to play on stadium and get the respect every other team gets. There is a lot of pressure also as seniors because all of the underclassmen look up to us. So we have to try our best and show our best so we can lead by example.”

The Leonardtown Raiders boys soccer team is hopeful to repeat for a fourth year in a row as the SMAC champions under head coach Robert Hor in his 14th year helping coach the program as either an assistant or head coach.

Fall sports teams at St. Mary’s Ryken, which compete in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, were slated to begin the 2019 season with the first official day of tryouts and practices on Tuesday.

Pete Staufenberger is eager to begin his second year as head coach for the Knights girls soccer team.

“We lost five seniors from last year’s team, but I am very excited about this group of players,” Staufenberger said. “I’m expecting a very strong season from senior midfielder Bella Beck, senior goalkeeper Jaida Hendricks, and our leading scorer from last season, sophomore Jill Silverstone. We have a very good group of incoming freshmen and are expecting our biggest tryout numbers in years, so the future looks good as well.”

King’s Christian Academy will feature a boys and girls soccer team this fall in addition to a girls volleyball team with all three teams slated to begin practices next week.

Twitter: @johnniswander2

Twitter: @johnniswander2