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Chuck Struhar, who has served as Long Reach's athletic director and softball coach since the school opened in 1996, is stepping down from his coaching duties. He plans, "as of now," to remain as athletic director."It was a real tough decision because I really like these kids and I have a nice group coming back," said Struhar, who told his players of his decision after Wednesday's 3-1 loss to River Hill in a Class 3A East Region semifinal. "Next year will be the first time in 30 years I won't be coaching a high school sport, and it's going to be different."

Struhar, 53, stepped down to spend more time with his children - Anna, 10, and Chris, 14. Anna is pitching fast pitch, and Struhar serves as an assistant coach on her team. Chris plays baseball and will enter high school in the fall."Anna's 10 and it's time I spent time with her," Struhar said. "I don't want her to be 16 years old and for her to say, ' You haven't seen me play.' I think she has a bright future in the sport and I want to be a part of that."

Struhar, who teaches an English course and SAT course at Long Reach, came to the Columbia school from Glenelg, where he started coaching in 1975 and coached softball, varsity girls basketball, JV football and JV baseball.

Struhar coached varsity softball for nine years at Glenelg, earning county championships in 1990 and 1994. He was named The Sun's Howard County Coach of the Year four times at Glenelg, where his overall record was 125-50.

Long Reach had no seniors when Struhar began the program in the spring of 1997, and 10 of the 14 players were freshman and sophomores. "My expectations are we have to get better, and if we're not, something is wrong," Struhar said before the season.

The Lightning finished 2-16 in the county and 2-19 overall the first season. The 1998 team improved to 10-8 and 12-10, and Struhar was named The Sun's Howard County Coach of the Year. Last year'steam was 11-7 and 13-9, and this season's team is ranked 10th in the area and finished 14-4 and 17-5.

Struhar said this season was "without a doubt the most rewarding" in his softball career "because we had a great group of kids."

Cates honored

Mount Hebron's Mark Cates recently was named Athletic Director of the Year for District 5, which serves Howard, Carroll, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

Cates, who teaches social studies, is serving his 10th year as athletic director at the Ellicott City school."I'm very appreciative of my fellow athletic directors," Cates said. "They work very hard."

Softball regionals

Howard (11-9) plays at eighth-ranked Atholton (20-3) today in the Class 2A South Region championship. The Raiders edged the Lions, 2-1, in eight innings in their first meeting. On May 5 at Howard, Atholton scored eight runs in the second inning and seven in the seventh for a 15-4 victory."The first time we played them, the defense was flawless," said Howard coach Dave Vezzi, whose team is the defending region champion. "The second time it was horrendous. That's the way it's been all season: peaks and valleys."

Senior second baseman Lindsey Hasiuk agreed. "We're like really, really good one day and really, really bad another day. We just need to play really good defense against them."River Hill (16-4) travels to third-ranked Northeast (19-4) for the Class 3A East Region title. Northeast, the defending state champion, is led by junior pitcher Rachael Herrick and leadoff hitter Renee Springston, who batted .453 in the regular season.


Mount Hebron's girls and boys teams play at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. respectively, today against Hereford in Class 3A-2A-1A state semifinal games at UMBC.Glenelg's girls team will play Kent County at 11 a.m. and Glenelg's boys will take on Queen Anne's at 1 p.m. in Class 3A-2A-1A semifinal games tomorrow at UMBC.

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