Over the last 10 years, Parnell retired from coaching and focused on his job as an administrator but he still was able to maintain the things that mean the most to him.

"This job has been the best of all the things I enjoy: watching and playing sports, and being around kids," he said.

Russo, who got his start in Howard County athletics in 1969 as Howard High School's assistant football coach and head wrestling coach, says it's the people that have helped make his career so memorable as well.

Coaching athletes like Kisha Jett (collegiate all-American) in track and Jim Traber (former Baltimore Oriole first baseman) in baseball, in addition to watching numerous of his assistant coaches go on to become successful head coaches, highlight the list.

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"It's amazing how many people you come in contact with in one way or another … seeing their success is definitely something that means a lot," Russo said.

In the early years, Russo was a pioneer in a lot of ways. As a physical education teacher at Ellicott City Middle School, he helped start gymnastics in the middle schools and also started the survival swim program in Howard County.

His classes would run over to the local YMCA and use their facilities in an effort to make sure all his kids knew how to swim.

"Six times a day I would run to that YMCA … I was in the best shape of my life," Russo said.

In the early 70s, Wilde Lake football coach Doug Duvall approached Russo about coming on as the varsity team's defensive coordinator. He took the job and did that for the next four years, while also coaching the Wildecat baseball team.

Then, when Hammond opened, Russo took over as the Golden Bears' head football coach. He would later take over the varsity girls basketball team in 1987 and join the track coaching staff in 1990.

Girls basketball, though, is where Russo arguably had his greatest success. Between the years of 1992-95, Russo's Golden Bears' squads captured three 2A state championships to establish one of the decade's great dynasties.

"Those were some very talented teams," said Russo, who also points out how much it meant to be a part of the Fuel Fund Classic in the early 1990s to raise money for charity.

Russo recalls playing one game at the Baltimore Arena in front of a crowd of 5,000 people when his team was ranked No. 1 by the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.

By the early 2000s, however, Russo had begun his transition out of coaching and into the next chapter of his life. He took over as athletic director at Hammond in 2002.

Russo remained in the administration position for the Golden Bears when the AAM job was created and continued to run the program up until his decision to step down this spring.

Given time to reflect, he has no regrets.

"The county has grown so much since I started and it's definitely been exciting to have seen that and been a part of that," Russo said. "I've been fortunate enough to see it from all angles, as a coach and (as an administrator).

"You know, 43 years is a long time … it's been a great run."