Pikesville High School was home to several successful teams this spring season.
The boys track team led the pack with a state championship title, something coach Adam Hittner described as the perfect end to a great season.
The win was the first boys’ outdoor track title in school history, but Hittner said, “I was very confident. I knew that we were the best team.”
After finishing third in last year’s state meet, close enough to whet the team’s appetitie, the championship served as a strong focal point for the Panthers’ 2014 season.
“The conversations I had with the kids all season were just, ‘all we have to do is just get there and do our jobs, do what we’ve always done, and we’re going to be fine,’” said Hittner. Throughout the season, no matter the individual meet results, the team hung onto that confidence, carrying it into the final meet of the season. In fact, he said, the team willingly sacrificed results, training harder and working through regular rest days in order to time the athletes’ peaks with the conclusion of the season.
“From an outside perspective, [the team’s regular-season record] looks up and down, but in reality it was just a matter of we were always gearing toward the regional and state meets,” Hittner said. “That’s where we were always intending to run all of our guys in all of our best events and do our best, so a lot of our early season results didn’t always look as good because we were training through meets, we were working out very hard the day before meets, and we were just in very heavy training cycles a lot of the way.”
Additionally, in a sport where the team aspect can be eclipsed by individual performances, making sure every athlete had a coach cheering him on was imperative, said Hittner, even if they stressed to the athletes to simply focus on their own event.
“We knew on Day 1 which coach was assigned to which area,” he said. “[We had] someone to be at the long jump, someone to be at the high jump, someone at the throws, someone at the track, someone doing the team and making sure everyone’s getting where they should be as far as checking in on time, getting warmed up and all of that.”
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The Panthers’ lacrosse team finished 2014 strong as well. The girls made it to the regional championship after finishing the regular season undefeated in their division. The boys team, led by eight players who received All-County honors — one of whom was also recognized with Academic All-American honors — finished their season 11-5 with a loss in the third round of playoffs.
Chemistry was the key to success for Pikesville’s baseball team this year, said head coach David Kopel.
After losing seven seniors from last season, “I thought it would be a rebuilding year,” he said. “The chemistry is what got us to where we are.”
The team’s 13-3 season ended last month with a 5-4 loss to Sparrows Point in the second round of the MPSSAA tournament.
“The kids really worked hard,” said Kopel, who is in his sixth year of coaching the Panthers. His son is a junior on the team.
Instead of relying on one or two superstar players, the team comprised kids who appreciated the opportunity to play the game and respected each other as players, Kopel added. Instead of a set-in-stone lineup, he sometimes rotated players based on who was performing better that week or that day, something he said helped keep the students on their toes and emphasized the overall success of the team over the success of individuals.
Through rainouts and long practices, the team stuck together, he said, and after this season, he is expecting even more success next year.
Said Kopel: “We have a ton of kids who just love the game and work hard.”