Girls Indoor Track And Field Coach Of The Year: Baumgardner's Strategy, Enthusiasm Leads Mavs

Girls Indoor Track And Field Coach Of The Year: Baumgardner's Strategy, Enthusiasm Leads Mavs
(from left) Manchester Valley coach Eric Baumgardner, Hannah Kurek, Katie Leisher and Emily Cheatwood celebrate as teammate Lizzie Colson finishes first in the 1A Girls 4 X 800 Meter Relay during the MPSSAA State Championchip Indoor Track Meet in Landover Monday, Feb 16, 2015. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

By the numbers alone, the Manchester Valley girls track and field team shouldn't have even been in the conversation for an overall championship at the 1A state meet.

Yet, there they were: 10 of the team's 11 athletes who made the trip down to the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex in Landover scored points for the Mavericks, who collected the crown by 10 points over Smithsburg.

Teams at the meet could have appraised Manchester Valley based on those regional seeding times alone. Coach Eric Baumgardner, this year's Times indoor girls track and field Coach of the Year, didn't care much for those projections.

"The fact that we were not chosen to win, 23-point underdogs coming in, to have everyone come out and do what they did was just amazing," he said. "It was just a great season."

Baumgarder insists it's all the work of his kids on the team, joking that all he does is "scream and yell."

The athletes, however, have a different take on how their coach influenced the state championship run.

"He's top of the line," said Katie Leisher, a two-time individual state champion this winter. "Because he takes into consideration everyone's opinions and feelings."

He was also a fan of using strategy to his advantage when he could this season.

The Mavericks weren't interested in going all out for a county or conference title. Taking on Carroll's larger schools would have been a near-impossibility. Even at regionals, the coach was more concerned with getting his girls to the next stage, rather than winning the whole thing.

Then there were the little moves he made to give his squad a better chance at success.

Instead of letting Leisher try her hand at the 800-meter run at regionals — an event she could have given Carroll County rival Molly Walsch a run for — Baumgardner moved his top athlete to the 4x800 relay team, which went on to win a state title.

Leisher likely won't forget the moment her coach knew the team had locked up the championship.

"His smile just made my day," she said.

Reach staff writer Matt Owings at 410-857-7893 or