Local track guru Ed Harte of North County once again has assembled an outstanding field for his annual Knights Invite, which starts at 3: 15 p.m. today.
Among the 18 schools competing is last year's Class 1A state runner-up, Oakland Mills -- with its third-ranked boys team led by premier junior sprinter Kyle Farmer and its fifth-ranked girls' team.
"We have nine boys and nine girls teams, because we like to keep it at no more than 10 each," said Harte. "[That's] so it's done in a three-hour time period and doesn't go on forever, like some meets do.
"People can -- focus on the individual standouts."
Team scores are not tabulated, Harte says, because the Knights Invite is primarily "an individual showcase."
Oakland Mills has one of three ranked boys teams in the meet, the others being No. 5 Mount St. Joseph and the host, No. 8 North County.
The talented Farmer, the All-Metro Performer of the Year last spring as a sophomore after winning four gold medals in the Class 1A state meet for the second straight year, is an athlete to behold.
He won the 100-, 200- and 400-meter runs in addition to the long jump in the states. The Scorpions are also deep in distance runners, and Nick Fambro is the defending Howard County champion discus thrower.
A trio leads North County -- Jerome Goodman, the defending Class 4A state champion high jumper (6 feet, 8 inches), hurdlersprinter Chris Scott, and sprinter Chiwuzie Odunukwe.
Mount St. Joseph boasts distance runners Chris Wright and Dan Ramirez, and the Gaels are strong in jumps and hurdles.
Old Mill's All-Metro pole vaulter Dan Liden is the favorite in that event.
In the girls competition, Oakland Mills is joined by No. 9 Broadneck and always-competitive McDonogh.
Kelly Zuknick, a middle-distance runner for Archbishop Spalding, is among the girl athletes to watch. She was the outstanding girls performer at last year's Knights Invite but is slowly getting into form after suffering from muscle fatigue during the indoor season.
U'tonna Sherrod, another standout distance runner, has had hamstring problems and her status for the meet is undecided.
Add Grace Wetzel, and the Cavaliers should be right there in the distance events, where Oakland Mills is also strong with Danielle Stoddart and Molly Sunderdick. Stoddart is also a contender in the hurdles.
Broadneck is solid in the shot put and discus with Jennifer Bounelis and Erin Burns, and has a versatile runnerjumper, Mandy Vigets, a sophomore from Florida.
Old Mill's Alicia Beard is another versatile performer who sprints, hurdles and jumps. Meade sprinter Adrienne Thompkins is another girl to watch.
Around the horn
Defensively, Glen Burnie's Allen Strick, the All-Metro shortstop at Mount St. Joseph, "is like a college shortstop who has been playing a couple years," says Old Dominion University baseball coach Tony Guzzo. He expects Strick "will start for us Day One as a freshman."
Junior Gavin Floyd, Strick's teammate from Severna Park, is the fourth-ranked Gaels' pitching ace. His right arm has pro scouts drooling over their radar guns. He also can hit, as evidenced by his team-leading 26 RBIs.
Batting clean-up behind the dangerous Strick, Floyd has taken advantage of opposing pitchers not giving the former anything good to hit. Strick walked three times in Tuesday's 9-0 victory over Calvert Hall.
Annapolis (1-7) posted the shocker of the baseball season so far, using a seven-run seventh inning to post its first win, 9-7, at top-ranked Severna Park (7-1) on Monday. Joe Feldmann, a sharp-shooting guard for the Panthers in basketball despite being legally blind in one eye, took a 9-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh before tiring.
Former Old Mill All-Metro pitcher Mike Ziegler ran his record to 7-1 over the weekend for the nation's top-ranked college team, Florida State, with a 14-2 victory over defending NCAA champion Miami, now ranked 12th. Ziegler's only loss was a 2-1 decision at Virginia a couple weeks ago.
Ryan Dacey, an All-County shortstop at Annapolis four years ago, has moved to second base for George Washington University, where he should end his career this spring as the Colonials' all-time leader in several offensive categories and be drafted by a pro club.
The Severn Athletic Club plans to award one or more $500 scholarships to high school seniors who participated in SAC youth sports, continued to play through high school while excelling academically, and are involved in community service and school activities.
Athletic achievements are secondary. Applications are available at Archbishop Spalding, Glen Burnie, Meade and Old Mill high schools, or by calling 410-551-7843.
Have a note or idea for Sidelines? Call Pat O'Malley's 24-hour Sportsline, 410-647-2499.