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Seventh heaven

Smithsburg girls track finds another lethal combination for 1A state meet

Smithsburg girls track finds another lethal combination for 1A state meet

May 23, 2002|BY DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

At the beginning of the season, Smithsburg track and field coach Buddy Orndorff predicted his Leopards would have their hands full winning a seventh consecutive Class 1A state title, with Poolesville looming as the main challenger at the time.

Taking a look at the seeding chart for this year's state championships - starting today and finishing Saturday at University of Maryland-Baltimore County - reveals that, should everything hold close to the seeds, the Leopards will turn back both Poolesville and a tough Rising Sun squad and walk out of UMBC as champions once again.

Stll, Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff took nothing for granted Wednesday night before the Leopards start defense of their title.

"The bottom line is, I really think on paper Poolesville's probably stronger, and Rising Sun's really good," Orndorff said during a phone interview. "Fortunately, we're not running on paper. We need to do what we need to do. We'll reinforce what we need to do (today) on the bus ride down. We'll show up and do the best we can do, and if we win the title, we do.

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"I'd like to smile and say, 'Yeah, we've got it in the bag', but it isn't going to happen. You have to compete for it. ... You cross your fingers, and you hope for the best."

If, indeed, Smithsburg is crowned state champion Saturday evening, it will continue a season-long trend of the Leopards taking their game to another level each week.

In Smithsburg's own Charas Heurich Invitational on April 20, it beat North Hagerstown by 22 points. Two weeks later, in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League championships, the Leopards beat the Hubs by 55. At the county meet, the spread was 56.

Smithsburg has senior leaders in Laura Stouffer, Michelle Feiser and Carrie Hartman. The Leopards have top throwers in Tara Knable and Detra Mackey. They have role players in Corina Campbell and Samantha Schweinhart, and kids who do their best just to scratch out a point or two in Lindsay Layman, Kristen Poffenberger, Kim Recher, Janessa Turpin and Jessica Yu.

But most of all, the Leopards have chemistry and camaraderie - perhaps more than they ever have.

"It seems a lot like everybody's on the fence cheering us on," Feiser said at last Friday's 1A West championships, which Smithsburg won by a whopping 90 points. "It hasn't always been that way. I mean, we've always supported each other, but this year the enthusiasm is even better."

Where to start? With the seniors, of course - seniors who have never lost an outdoor state team competition.

Stouffer will be at UMBC for the fourth time, and will be defending her 1,600-meter championship from last year.

"Going into states, I'm excited because it's my last year," Stouffer said. "But I'm also nervous, because I want a state championship."

Feiser - the runner-up last year in the 300 hurdles - is seeded second in the 300 hurdles and fourth in the 100 hurdles this year, but has run well under her seeded times of 48.4 seconds (300 hurdles) and 16.5 seconds (100 hurdles), and could win both events.

Then there's Hartman. Overshadowed in her individual events, the 400 and 800, by other county athletes, she still scores well in both, and is the anchor for Smithsburg's 1,600 and 3,200 relays.

"We've got great senior leadership," Orndorff said. "Of all the years I've been coaching, this is probably the funnest group and the closest group I've been around. They pull for each other, they support each other, and you can't ask for more than that."

Where Smithsburg really puts the clamps on other teams - and will likely do the same at states - is in the throwing events, where Knable and Mackey dominate. Neither Poolesville nor Rising Sun has athletes in the discus or shot put at states, and the Leopards' duo should score 20 or more points in those events.

"It's exciting, knowing we can rack up points in the throws," Knable said. "Until this year, I don't think we were expected to score main points, but we've pulled through a lot. ... It's a very hard challenge, but I'm sure we can all pull together. We feel we can beat the challenges this week."

Add in the contributions from Campbell (hurdles), Schweinhart (pole vault), Layman (triple jump), Poffenberger (high jump), Recher (long jump), Turpin (200) and Yu (high jump), and even though you'd never believe it, there is no "I" in Smithsburg.

"Everybody is getting points," Feiser said. "Even if it's sixth, that's one point. Everybody's doing what they can."

"We need to try to get points in every event that we have someone qualified in, and where we have two kids we need to try to get multiple places," Orndorff said. "(Going) head to head with Poolesville, Rising Sun, Williamsport and some of these other guns, we need to stay close. They get a first, we need to get a second, if they get a second, we need to get a third.

"We've never won the state track meet ... the same way two years in a row. It's been different events. We've never dominated except one year, and we really haven't been the favorite.

"It's just the little things. Sometimes you win with jumpers, sometimes you win with field events, sometime you win it with distance ... it's different."

Yet, should Smithsburg put it all together for the seventh straight year, one thing will remain the same - the Leopards will be called state champions.

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