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Spook stays faithful to first love


Spook is still at it. At 51, he's still doing his thing in the sport he loves.

Spook is Charles Hilgartner, but he's not comfortable with the name Charles. He is comfortable, believe it or not, with Spook.

Spook is a Lutherville resident, father of three young men. He works in the computer business but has spent a good bit of his life in lacrosse.

He played for Villanova and the Maryland Lacrosse Club, though he was never a star. He officiated lacrosse for a dozen years. For another dozen years he coached junior teams and ran the Little League in Lutherville.

Through it all, everybody called him Spook. Never Charles.

"When I was coaching the 6-7-and-8-year-olds," he recalled yesterday, "the kids would say, 'Hey, Spook, we're ready to play.' And their parents would call me Mr. Hilgartner."

So many people know of Spook and his work with youngsters that they had to be pleased during the NCAA Division I Johns Hopkins-Maryland semifinal game at College Park a month ago when they heard the Byrd Stadium public address system boom:

"Maryland goal by Hilgartner!"

Three times during the first half, Peter Hilgartner -- Spook's youngest son -- scored for the University of Maryland and helped the Terps to a 10-4 halftime lead and a 16-8 upset of previously undefeated Hopkins.

Another of Spook's sons, Andy, was captain of the Michigan State team a couple years ago and now coaches the high school team in Sewickley, Pa., outside Pittsburgh. Andy and Peter went to Calvert Hall.

The oldest son, 25-year-old Rife, played at Boys' Latin and Whittier College and is now living in Vail, Colo.

But it was extra special to have Peter recognized before 30,000 spectators in one of the biggest games of recent years. For Spook, it was an honor much deserved.

Unlike so many Little League dads, he continues to volunteer even though his own sons have outgrown it.

Because of his involvement, there will be an unusually interesting game played at Towson State's Minnegan Stadium Saturday night (at 8) in which the best of Maryland's high school players will play the best from upstate New York.

That game will be the star attraction of the three-day STX National Junior Lacrosse Festival that begins tomorrow and will bring 1,100 players from 14 states here (plus a team from Eltham, Australia).

In all, 96 games will be played by kids from the age of 11 to entering seniors in high school. Admission is free to all games.

Spook Hilgartner and Hugh Mallon are co-chairmen of the festival, but it's the New York vs. Maryland game that has people talking.

"This has never been done before," Jody Martin, of the Lacrosse Foundation and Hall of Fame, was saying yesterday. "This game -- the best in Maryland vs. the best from New York -- ought to settle some arguments."

Jody Martin is a former Gilman School lacrosse coach and athletic director. He knows that people around here consider the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association the best high school league, top to bottom, in the country.

The MIAA includes two-time champion Gilman plus traditional powers such as Boys' Latin, St. Paul's, St. Mary's and Loyola. There also are some outstanding players in Harford, Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

But there may be no better high school program in the country than West Genesee's in the Syracuse suburbs. The Genees have produced dozens of players who have gone on to help Syracuse U. win national titles, including the one the Orange won on Memorial Day.

"I told Clay White [Broadneck High coach and president of the Maryland Lacrosse Coaches' Association] to pick the Maryland team," says Spook Hilgartner.

"And I told Tom Hall, in New York, to pick that team. I told them both that all I wanted was for both teams to have the best 25 players, no matter which schools they came from."

Some 120 players tried out for the Maryland team, which is coached by Loyola's Joe McFadden, Friends' John Garman and Glenelg's Rick Kincaid. Of the 25 who made it, 14 are from MIAA schools.

"This game will be even better next year," Spook was saying. "We've already cleared it for the Long Island players to play for New York."

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