No team ever has repeated as cross country champion in the Association of Independent Schools, but Notre Dame Prep just might pull it off this year.
The Pirates won the league's kickoff group meet, a sort of championship preview, by one point over Mount de Sales -- and they did it without their top runner, junior Carrie Kroll, a first-team All-Baltimore City/County pick last year.
Coach Ed Donnellan gave Kroll the day off, and the Pirates' top finisher was freshman Laura Sellinger, who came in seventh on the 3.1-mile course at McDonogh. Mount de Sales' Bridget Quenzer was the individual winner.
Because the Pirates and the Sailors figure to run neck-and-neck, the win without Kroll makes NDP a favorite to repeat. Still with six weeks to go before the title race, Donnellan remains cautious.
"I think it's tougher than people realize," said Donnellan, who started the Pirates team five years ago. "It's really difficult for anybody to repeat with the high rate of injuries in this sport. Anything can happen from week to week, but it's what my girls are shooting for."
Even though the Pirates lost two of their top five runners to graduation, the 1994 title has given the program a boost. More girls than ever came out for the team and Donnellan has a 35-member squad up from 21 a year ago.
Kroll, who finished fifth in the AIS and second in the state Catholic Schools Championship last year, returns as the top runner. Junior Katie Baird and Heather Ward also remain in the top five joined by Sellinger and senior co-captain Meghan Schaub.
Setting up a winner
At the beginning of the season, Perry Hall volleyball coach Pam Wilt said the success of the Gators' season would depend on the setting.
The pressure fell on senior Kim Opdyke, the only setter in the Gators' 5-1 offense, and Opdyke has handled it even better than Wilt had hoped.
"Kim knows a lot of our success is riding on how well she is going to set," Witt said. "She's working very hard. She's getting to bad passes. She's really come on."
With Opdyke at quarterback, the No. 5 Gators are cruising along unbeaten in Baltimore County's Division I and are 5-2 overall.
But Opdyke has had more than a little help. The Gators boast one of the most balanced attacks in the league. With five able hitters -- Erica King, Stephanie Sanzone, Carin Moorefield, Beth Pancake and Melissa Webster, they can attack from all over the court.
What's in a name?
The most difficult thing about keeping up with the AIS A Division has been keeping up the changing league names. First, they were East and West, then Red and Blue, then Even and Odd.
Now, they've changed again, but this time for good. The coaches have decided to give each league a name that has a connection to the sport. Each sport will use different names and the teams will continue to be realigned to maintain parity, but the league names will be permanent.
"Those other designations kind of bothered me," said Garrison Forest hockey coach Micul Ann Morse. "I thought this was a nice way to recognize people who have been instrumental in a sport, people we owe a debt to in a particular sport."
In field hockey, the leagues will be known as Applebee and Homer, named for two key figures in the growth of the sport. Constance Applebee brought the sport to the United States from England and coached for many years in Philadelphia. Frances Homer, a Baltimore native, coached at Friends and served five years as treasurer of the United States Field Hockey Association.