Earlier this week, I drove by Thomas Stone to cover a baseball game only to find an empty field, nary a car in sight.
It’s happened countless times before, specifically during the summer seasons, and this particular occurrence probably could have been avoided had I checked ahead. Being that it was a short drive for me, I didn’t bother, nor was I really bothered when there wasn’t a game to cover — I mean, I did get to go home.
But looking out at the empty field made me reflect a little bit. I hadn’t been to Stone’s baseball field in a number of years. I used to spend a lot of time there, both through the spring high school seasons and the American Legion seasons in the summers. Somehow now over a decade-and-a-half into this, when I first started covering sports in Southern Maryland seemingly every game there really mattered.
So much has changed through the years, but when you look back at the spring season that just was, it’s a reminder that so much has also remained the same. A person doesn’t have to look very hard to find some truly special talents on display.
About three weeks ago, I covered the Huntingtown and La Plata softball teams as they repeated as the respective Class 3A and 2A state champions. In the time that I’ve been covering the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, which dates back to the winter of 2002-03, there has only been one year a SMAC team didn’t play in a state final and just three in which a SMAC program didn’t ultimately hoist a state championship trophy at season’s end.
But it goes back a lot further than my career here. If you track it back to 1992, there have only been four years that didn’t end with at least one SMAC softball team winning a state championship. Four years out of 28!
Further, in nine years since 1992 two SMAC teams have triumphed in their respective classification’s last game, meaning that a conference that currently has just 14 schools — but had 11 up until the 2004-05 school year — has won exactly half of the state championships awarded over a quarter of the time and won 29.5% of the overall state championships awarded over the past 28 seasons.
Now that’s consistency.
St. Mary’s Ryken delivered on the private-school side of things, too, taking the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title to only add to the Southern Maryland résumé this spring.
On the track, SMAC’s track and field programs did pretty well for themselves this past spring, too, winning three state team championships. After its girls won three consecutive state crowns in the previous three years, Lackey’s boys took top billing this year, claiming the 1A championship. Huntingtown’s boys pulled off a dramatic win to take the top spot in the 3A field, the first state outdoor crown for the Hurricanes boys program.
And then there was Northern. The Patriots girls team took care of business to make it a Calvert County sweep in the 3A classification. While the outdoor title was the first for the program, Northern’s girls also walked off with the big trophy in both the indoor track and field and cross country seasons to make for a rather memorable 2018-19 year.
La Plata’s baseball team further added to its status as one of the state’s top programs, winning its second state title in four years and third since 2008. The Warriors have won their region in eight of the past nine seasons, as well, spanning from when the program competed in the 3A before being going into 2A a few years back.
Two years after making history as the first SMAC lacrosse program to ever earn possession of a state championship trophy, Northern’s boys squad upheld its reputation by returning to a third consecutive state final. After many years of trying to reach that level, over the past few seasons the Patriots have established themselves as a fixture at the state’s highest levels.
Perhaps most noteworthy was the history-making performance at the state tennis tournament.
Forty-one years having passed since the only state championship ever won by a SMAC player, the format change to each of the four classifications having its own state tournament made the locals major players.
Four different brackets featured a SMAC finalist in the 3A tournament, with the four-decade drought ended in not one, but two brackets.
Huntingtown, which took home the 3A’s runner-up team trophy, boasted the boys singles champion in Taiyo Tougas, while Northern’s girls doubles team of Emma O’Kane and Alex Pinkham nabbed the girls doubles crown. Great Mills’ Laura Feckova finished as the girls singles runner-up in the classification, while Huntingtown’s mixed doubles team of Sydney Nader and Brody White did the same.
Two individual champs after 41 years doesn’t exactly equal the softball résumé, but who knows what the future holds.