The COVID-19 health nightmare affected people across the entire country in many adverse ways in 2020 and sports in the Northern Baltimore County area were not immune to being infected with change.
Cancellation of spring prep seasons in March before they even started left stands empty and athletes without games to play or daily practices. Private school athletics returned in the fall briefly, but when the coronavirus numbers escalated they were shut down again.
The North County News sports staff looked at some memorable moments in 2020.
Hereford girls track team wins state title
The girls indoor track program won its sixth state championship at the Class 3A state meet and second straight crown with a dominant performance in the pole vault and its depth in the distance races.
Junior Elizabeth Schriver claimed first place in the pole vault for the team’s only individual title.
The Bulls, who won by a 54-49.5 margin over second-place Northern-Calvert at Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex, have won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, 2016 and 2017, and 2019 and 2020.
The talent the Bulls have in the pole vault, which has become a tradition, paid big dividends as Schriver cleared 11 feet, 2 inches, with senior Courtney Butz finishing second (10-8) and junior Vita Shats placing fourth (10-2) to provide 23 team points.
Butz, whose older sister, Alex, won a state title in the pole vault for the Bulls as a senior in 2017, overcame a severe ankle injury to qualify at the region meet and finish second.
The Bulls leaned on their depth to pile up points. Sophomore Piper Lentz took fourth in the 800 meters (2:23.43), sixth in the 1600 (5:18.72) and was part of the 1600 relay team that placed third. She was joined on that team by Laura Schmidt, Lily Gaffner and Lizzie Lopez.
Schmidt also scored individually by placing fifth in the 500 (1:19.81).
The 3200 relay team of Lopez, Shannon Francis, Hadley Sweeney and Lily Moore took second (9:58.24) for eight points.
Caroline Benda was fourth in the 3200 (11:46.95).
“Every kid on the track put up a season-best performance and I was blown away by that — it was just incredible,” Duvall said. “At first, I didn’t think we were at the level to compete [for a state title]. And then a couple weeks ago, I took a look and thought it was going to be close, and we may have a chance. Across the board, the kids’ performances were perfect.”
Earlier in the season, Hereford captured its 14th straight Baltimore County championship and 10th straight region crown.
Quartet of Hereford wrestlers reach state tournament
Hereford sent four wrestlers to the Maryland state tournament at the Showplace Arena on March 6-7 and one of them earned a spot on the victory stand, which includes the top six finishers in each weight class.
Sophomore Morgan Vandergrift (29-6) placed third in the Class 2A-1A tournament at 132 pounds.
Vandergrift opened the tournament with a second-period pin (3:19) of Winters Mill’s Alex Vagnier. He advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating Tae Gowe (33-6), of St. Michaels, with a 15-2 major decision.
He lost to eventual state champion Gage Owen (47-3), of South Carroll, by getting pinned in the third period (5:28).
He advanced to the consolation finals by beating Sparrows Point’s Wayne Brooks, 4-3. He also defeated Brooks in the regional finals, 8-7, after losing to him in the Baltimore County championship match, 6-4.
Baltimore County individual champion Owen Bell (33-8) also went to the state tournament, where the freshman won at 106 pounds, 4-3, in the first round, but lost the next two matches.
Conway, who committed to play at Seton Hall University. Conway exploded for 31 points in the second quarter and converted 12 three-pointers by halftime. At one point, he made eight straight three-pointers.
“Once you get hot, it’s just like shooting at a hula hoop,” said Conway, who played just 22:20 minutes and added 8 steals and 4 assists.
Walter gets long-awaited coaching job
Hereford High’s John Walter spent 22 years in the football program before finally getting named the head coach after Ric Evans retired after the Bulls lost 12-6 loss to New Town in the second round of the Class 2A North Region playoffs.
Walter got the head varsity job, but there was no 2020 fall football season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the Bulls return to the gridiron he will certainly be prepared.
He was on the there as an assistant to head coach Steve Turnbaugh when the Bulls won state championships in 1997, 2001 and 2002.
Turnbaugh, who had a 184-37 career record, guided the Bulls to 11 state tournament appearances in 19 seasons before giving up head coaching duties in 2013.
Turnbaugh and Walter were together 16 years before Walter took two years off to focus on his family.
“I had five sons, so I was with Turnbaugh for 16 years and I wish I would have stayed, but the problem was I wanted to coach my sons, so that was the reason that I gave it up for two years,” Walter said. “When I gave it up for two, I knew I was going to come back, but I didn’t know in what capacity.”
Turkey Bowl streak ends
On Saturday, Nov. 21 football players were told in a Calvert Hall auditorium that the Turkey Bowl — one of the nation’s longest running Catholic school rivalries — would not be held for the first time in a century.
The game against Loyola Blakefield, which has been played continuously since 1920 — and on Thanksgiving since 1929 — had survived the Great Depression and two world wars.
Perhaps because of that resilient history, players and coaches had hoped and believed the schools would figure out a way to stage the Thanksgiving rite during the coronavirus pandemic, even if it had to be played with few or no fans.
But the schools jointly announced on Nov. 21 that “this treasured tradition” would not continue this season because of Baltimore County’s limits on social gatherings designed to curb the spread of the virus, which is surging in the state and nation.
“We were supposed to have practice at 9:00,” said Calvert Hall senior quarterback Amir Jenkins, who won two previous Turkey Bowls and considers the matchup unique because “everybody is locked in” and the winner receives a shiny silver trophy of a football. “Coach [Josh Ward] said there is no Turkey Bowl and no more season. It was just like, a loss of words. Nobody wanted to say anything.”
“When you live in the 2020 COVID world, you kind of prepare for anything.,” said Loyola Blakefield coach Anthony Zehyoue said. “Even when we got the news, it was still gut-wrenching.”
Hereford’s Harden shines in tough loss
There are very few things Hereford senior guard Reese Harden can’t do on the basketball court.
When she made her fifth three-pointer of the night to put the Bulls (12-4) up 46-35 with 5:07 remaining in the game on Feb. 12 against host Western Tech (15-3), it looked like she was destined to be the player of the game.
But Harden, who averaged 20 points a contest, and led the team in assists, barely touched the ball the rest of the way and the Wolverines closed with a miraculous 17-0 run to pull out a 52-46 victory.
Sydney Stokes gave the Wolverines their first lead, 48-46, with a layup, after an assist by Tiffany Manning (15 points, 5 assists) with 2:45 left in the fourth quarter.
Destini Ward finished with a team-high 20 points to go along with seven rebounds, four steals and three assists for the Wolverines.
Harden (21 points) was equally exceptional. Her 15 first-half points helped the Bulls take a 30-23 lead into halftime.
After getting two assists in the third quarter, Harden hit a three-pointer with seven seconds left to extend a two-point lead to five.
She drew a charge early in the fourth quarter and the Bulls extended their lead to 43-33.
“She is a heckuva ballplayer,” Western Tech coach Alan Lagon said. “We tried to key on her obviously because she is that good.”