Each and every high school sports season is book ended by two fairly arduous tasks. At the end, and this is something I've written about more times than I care to count, there is the selection of All-Harford teams. That process is tough because we (Randy McRoberts and I pick the teams) are forced to go over a lot of nominations and statistics before we can distill a list of names.
At the beginning though, the point we're at now, there is the piecing together of season previews. While not as taxing as the All-Harford selections, putting the previews together is tedious because there are just so many names to deal with. Normally, after a few weeks of season when I've compiled a few dozen recaps, I'm familiar with the spelling of everyone's name, but at the start, when faced with a gang of new athletes whose names I've never seen, much less tried to type out, my brain starts to melt when I'm spell-checking the season previews.
There are names that require my fingers to do some serious acrobatics, then wonder if the coach even spelled it correctly themselves. The winner of that title this season goes to North Harford's Jordan Abuhantash. A sophomore on the Hawks' boys soccer team, and one of head coach Matt Johnstone's key newcomers, Jordan's name goes from one side of the keyboard to the other and is 16 letters long, twice the length of my own name. Jordan, I hope I haven't embarrassed you here. Do not ever get a job in journalism, because you are often forced to spell out your name over the phone. (Listening to my old colleague, former Aegis reporter Rachel Konopacki, spell her name to people over the phone was a daily office highlight. Rachel got married this summer, incidentally, and is now Rachel Smith.)
There are names that pop up that remind me I've been doing this for the better part of a decade now. I'll see one of the athletes on a coach's e-mail, think I recognize the last name, then realize that the player of whom I'm thinking graduated in 2008, and that the person in question is probably a younger sibling or cousin, and that they were probably in second grade when I first started doing these previews. The athlete that graduated in 2008 has probably graduated college and started their career by now.
There are names that make me do a double take, because I haven't seen them in a long time, like that of Alice Puckett, the Fallston field hockey coach (as if I need to tell you that). I took a break from covering field hockey last year because of a schedule conflict with my grad school classes, but came back to it this season. I was a little out of the loop, and though I'd heard coach Puckett say she might come back to helm the Cougars after seeing her daughter Lindsey graduate from the University of Maryland (she originally stepped down four years ago so she could follow Lindsey's career with the Terps field hockey squad), I was still surprised to see her name on the contact list. Welcome back, coach.
Names aside, there are other problems you can run into, like forgetting to ask for last year's record and having to figure that out from a year-old e-mail, or simply deleting an email that had an entire team's information on it. Both of those happened this year, and the Harford Tech field hockey team suffered because of the latter. I told them I'd make amends by including them here, so here it is. Sorry, girls, and good luck this season:
Head coach: Amanda Sheldon (fourth season)
Key returning players: Tyler Bethke, Sr. (M); Gill Chase, So. (D); Lexie Endlich, So. (D); Mikaela Hairston, Jr. (F); Brittany Kapustensky, Jr. (F); Courtney Poole, So. (F); Hannah Soellner, Sr. (D).
Outlook: "Tyler Bethke is our number one player to watch," coach Sheldon said." Bethke plans to go Division I or II in college, and she is the key ball handler of the team. Tyler led the team last year in goals and assists as a junior. She is a four-year varsity starter who has the speed, endurance, and ball handing skills to lead the team this season. She worked very hard in the off season, especially on her reverse sweep, and is ready for this season. Last year was a rebuilding year for us, and since we only graduated two starting seniors, we have a strong team this season. Bethke will be the core to the midfield, whereas Brittany Kapustensky and Mikaela Hairston will be on the front line to score the goals."