Erin McMunn and Cody Harman both attended Westminster East Middle School. When it came time for high school, their paths diverged — McMunn went to Winters Mill and Harman headed for Westminster.
Yet, as high school seniors, they essentially ended up in the same place: Both student-athletes led their respective schools to state championships.
McMunn added a critical leadership element to a young Winters Mill girls lacrosse team that wasn't expected to contend for another state title — but did.
Harman's all-around offensive excellence and solid handling of the county's best pitching staff enabled Westminster's baseball team to complete an undefeated, championship season.
And their efforts weren't confined to the field. Both have proven to be dedicated and high-achieving students who made time to instruct younger athletes and enrich the lives of many in their community.
For their standout performances on the field, in the classroom and in their community, McMunn and Harman have been named the co-winners of The Eagle's Spring Sports Student-Athlete award.
Leadership in lacrosse and life
Early this spring, the Winters Mill girls lacrosse team looked like it was rebuilding. The starting goalkeeper was a converted midfielder and the Falcons faced the task of replacing three All-Americans from the 2010 team that was ranked as the top public high school program in the nation.
But they still had McMunn.
A four-year starter who is headed to Princeton University, McMunn's leadership skills and consistency helped an inexperienced Winters Mill team win its second consecutive Class 2A-1A championship. It was the third title in four years for the Falcons, who have become one of the state's dominant lacrosse programs.
"She's one of a kind," said Winters Mill head coach Courtney Vaughn, who has guided the Falcons to all three of their state titles. "Erin is a very humble kid who treats everyone well. You could see her leadership qualities from day one, and we selected her as a captain her sophomore year because we saw that she could be someone special.
"This year, she really had to step up by herself and be more vocal, which isn't necessarily her style. She worked so hard, and her teammates followed her lead."
It wasn't an easy season for McMunn, who missed several games because of injury. Still, she finished as the Falcons' top point-getter. McMunn placed seventh among county scorers, with 39 goals and 45 assists. More importantly, her dedication and unselfish play made it another season to remember for Winters Mill, which finished 6-1 in county play and 15-3 overall.
"The other teams put a lot of pressure on her this season," Vaughn said. "They knew she was an under-19 national team player, so she was often double- and triple-teamed."
But McMunn, whose younger sister, Caitlyn, is also a member of the team, never let pressure affect her. She led the Falcons back from three early-season losses to powerhouses McDonogh, Good Counsel and Westminster, to a close regional championship victory over Manchester Valley and a state semifinal win against Queen Anne's.
McMunn closed her high school career with a team-leading performance, recording three goals and two assists as Winters Mill beat Loch Raven, 13-2, in the state title game at University of Maryland, Baltimore County Stadium.
"During the preseason, a lot of people thought it was going to be an off-year for us," said McMunn, the daughter of Dan and Gretchen McMunn. "We had a lot of holes to fill.
"We weren't the same kind of team as last year's, but we knew we were OK," she said. "It was a fun year. And I was so fortunate to have coach Vaughn and to be able to play for this program."
McMunn started her journey to a spot on the U.S. Under-19 National Team on the same field where she won three state titles, at UMBC. She was one of 165 players at the initial tryout and survived the first cut to 42. After playing in tournaments in Boston and Florida, McMunn had to sweat out the final cut.
In January, McMunn's name was on the 18-player final roster. She was ecstatic upon learning that she would be traveling to Gottingen, Germany, for the 2011 Federation of International Lacrosse Under-19 World Championships, scheduled for Aug. 3-14.
McMunn started playing soccer at age 5. Four years later, when she was in the fourth grade, her mother signed her up for a lacrosse clinic at Carroll Indoor Sports. It became her favorite sport.
But McMunn's athletic exploits at Winters Mill weren't limited to the lacrosse field. She was starting goalkeeper on the Falcon girls soccer team, and participated in basketball and indoor track. She nearly won a state title in soccer, but Winters Mill lost the 2009 Class 2A championship to Fallston on penalty kicks.
McMunn played multiple sports while also excelling in the classroom. She put together a sterling grade-point average of 3.93 (on a 4.0 scale), placing her near the top of Winters Mill's graduating class.
"My parents always drilled to my sister and I that school came first," said McMunn, whose high school workload included six AP courses. "The teachers here were great, and my AP classes were tough but manageable. I ended up having enough time for everything."
Shortly after returning from the Under-19 World Championship, in Germany, McMunn will be heading to one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. She made an early commitment to Princeton.
"I was driving with coach Vaughn to practice at McDaniel in my freshman year," recalled McMunn, who is leaning toward a business major at Princeton. "She is very good friends with the head coach at Princeton, and she asked me about my grades and if I had thought about going there.
"I thought that was kind of crazy, but I kept it in the back of my mind. I got an email from Princeton at the beginning of my junior year, so I went for a visit. The campus was beautiful, everybody was nice, and I really liked the coaches.
"I loved it there. And from an academic standpoint, it's a great opportunity," she said.
The Winters Mill senior gave back to her community in several ways. She has served as an instructor with the Check-Hers lacrosse program, and is now coaching younger players who may make the roster at Winters Mill and other county schools in the coming years.
As a member of the National Honor Society, McMunn helps with Neighbors in Need and takes regular trips to Carroll Lutheran Village to make crafts with the residents.
"We talked with one man for a long time, and just listened to his stories about World War II and Roosevelt's fireside chats," she recalled. "It was so cool, and we got a lot out of it."
Catching fire behind the plate
He comes from a family that's synonymous with Westminster baseball. Cody Harman watched for years while his father Bryan, a former Westminster pitcher, coached the Owls baseball team.
He was a spectator at Ripken Stadium when his brother, Brett, threw a masterful four-hitter to lead the Owls to the school's first-ever baseball state title in 2007.
But this spring, his father and brother were watching from the Ripken Stadium dugout as Cody played in a state championship of his own. This time, it was Harman's hitting and fielding that keyed Westminster's second title in five years.
"You always look to your catcher to be your leader," said his coach and father, Bryan Harman. "Cody made people aware of situations and was always there to pick up his teammates."
Harman's baseball journey began at age 4, but it took a few years for him to get behind the plate.
"I always had the desire to catch, and when I was around 12, I realized that I had a pretty strong arm for the throws to second," he said. "I really got serious about it in 10th grade, and ever since then, I've really been dedicated to baseball."
The senior not only handled a talented pitching staff but also used his bat to help the Owls to a perfect 23-0 season. The Owls were dominant — they trailed only two opponents during the entire season.
In the championship game, it appeared Westminster was going to cruise to another title. The Owls scored six first-inning runs and held a 7-0 lead as starting pitcher Brandon Taylor took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. But Severna Park erupted for seven runs in the next two innings to tie the game.
Harman came up with two big plays to help the Owls win. A Severna Park single brought the tying run home, but right fielder Ryan Robinson made a strong throw to Harman. The catcher blocked the plate, and a sliding Evan Mendoza was out.
Then, after Westminster scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth, the Owls needed three outs to clinch the state title. Severna Park loaded the bases before Harman smothered the game's final pitch, a Chad Diehl curveball in the dirt, to preserve the win and start the celebration.
"The first thing I did was run out and hug our second baseman, Mitch McVerry, and then we all dogpiled on the infield," Harman said. "It was the happiest night of my life."
His clutch performance was the culmination of Harman's finest season.
He was among the Carroll County leaders in four major offensive categories. Harman led the county with nine doubles, and also finished sixth in batting average (.488) and third in runs batted in (30) and triples (three).
"I was really seeing the ball well this year, and I felt comfortable," said Harman, who scored 32 runs and also stole 10 bases during his senior season. "I didn't come to the plate every time feeling pressure to get a hit. I knew that if I didn't produce, I had other people behind me who would."
"His patience at the plate was important," Bryan Harman said. "He was a free swinger in his younger days, but now, he waits until he gets a pitch that he can do something with."
Harman still had one game to play after Westminster's championship victory. He was selected for the annual Brooks Robinson All-Star Game at Oriole Park, and delivered a two-run single that helped his North team beat the South, 5-0.
Harman also carried that same workmanlike attitude into the classroom. The Westminster senior finished with a grade point average of 3.62 (on a 4.0 scale), and ranked in the top quarter of his graduating class.
"My parents stressed that I had to stay focused in the classroom," he said.
Harman was also a steady contributor to his community. A member of the National Honor Society, he served on the committee for the NHS blood drive.
Harman volunteered at the Westminster High summer baseball camps that were run by his father, and has helped with basket bingo fundraisers at Charles Carroll Elementary and Westminster High.
"My life has been consumed by baseball, but I've tried to put in as much time as I could," he said. "My mom (Beth) helped to organize the basket bingos. I was her sidekick, helping to set up tables and other things."
Harman will continue to play baseball at Frederick Community College. He will transfer after two years at Frederick but plans to spend plenty of time in the weight room during his time at FCC.
"I want to get a lot bigger and physically stronger," he said. "We play a lot of games, about 45-50 a season, and there's several other good teams in the league that we'll be playing. Frederick's had some good teams and won a couple of championships recently.
"I believe that only two of their kids haven't been sent up, and hopefully I'll be able to play well there and then transfer to a four-year school."
His brother, a starting pitcher for the University of Maryland, plans to become a physician's assistant. The younger Harman will study either respiratory therapy or education at Frederick.
"I've always wanted to go into the medical field," said Harman, though he admits a love of history, particularly the Civil War era, could take him in another academic direction.
About This Award
Since the fall of 2007, The Eagle has presented this award to a Carroll County student-athlete at the conclusion of the fall, winter and spring sports seasons. The publication also presents an overall Student-Athlete of the Year award at the end of the school year. All student-athletes who compete at the varsity level for a Carroll County public school are eligible for the award, which is based on academic achievement, athletic achievement, and a record of service and good citizenship in the school and community.