Carroll teens warm up to winter sports with Olympics in spotlight

Mike Martin, of Sykesville, started playing hockey at the age of 20 for one reason.

"The Olympics had everything to do with it," said Martin, who was inspired by the USA hockey team's 4-3 win over the heavily-favored Soviet Union team — a game now known as the "Miracle on Ice" — in the medal round of the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid.

A 4-2 victory over Finland two days later clinched the gold medal for the Americans.

Today, Martin is the coach of the Frederick/Carroll Co-Up Hockey team. Based out of Frederick Skate in Frederick, the team consists of teenagers who attend Carroll County high schools as well as high schools in Frederick County.

"Hockey is growing in popularity," Martin said. "I don't know if the Olympics have anything to do with the popularity, but there are more kids interested. I see more young kids playing, more people getting involved."

It is typical, according to Lisa Williams, general manager at Frederick Skate, to see an increase in enrollment in the younger classes during a winter Olympic season.

"The biggest in the entry level, the learn-to-skate or learn-to-play hockey, classes," Williams said, of the Olympics' influence. "There is more awareness of it. There is a lot of chatter about it at the rink."

"The Olympics help us in that...there is more of a buzz around winter sports," said Anne Weimer, marketing director at Liberty Mountain Ski Resort in Pennsylvania. "People think maybe it is something they should be doing as well."

All of Carroll County high schools, and even some county middle schools, send buses of students to Pennsylvania once a week to ski or snowboard at Liberty or Whitetail.

On a recent cold Tuesday afternoon, students at Liberty High School were boarding buses to hit the slopes.

"It's a lot of fun," said Haley Zawitoski, 14, a freshman skier. "It teaches you responsibility at first because [of] how late you get home and being ready the next day (for school)."

"It's a good break during the week," said Brian Marsden, 17, a senior. "I would rather go on Tuesday and Friday."

While she takes about 80 kids to Liberty on Friday nights, Cristen Callegary, ski club adviser for Century High School, doesn't know about any Olympic standouts.

"We do have some very talented kids," Callegary said.

She said she has seen her share of injured students, too.

"This past Friday, we had a possible neck injury," Callegary said, adding all turned out well. "Broken collarbones, broken wrists, lots of sprains. Pretty much anything you can think of."

Matt Joseph, ski club adviser at South Carroll High School, has seen his fair share of injuries, too, though that hasn't stopped the group from growing.

"It is one of our bigger clubs," said the math teacher, who has about 140 students skiing on Thursday nights, as well as about 25 middle school students.

"It is a real neat cross section of the school," Joseph said, of the club. "The kids are good, responsible. We have fun."

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad