In the Chinese Zodiac, our year 2007 corresponds with the Year of the Boar; the next Year of the Tiger isn’t until 2010. But this is Montgomery County, and here, 2007 will always be the year we got Tiger.
In July, Tiger Woods, the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer, hosted the inaugural AT&T National at Bethesda’s Congressional Country Club. It was Woods’ first appearance at a tournament in Montgomery County since the 1997 U.S. Open.
At a March press conference in Washington, D.C., Tiger Woods announced he would host a tournament in the area over the week of July 4. The event filled both a gap in the PGA Tour schedule, and the golf vacuum left in the area by the collapse of the Booz Allen Classic, which under various names had been played in Montgomery County since 1980.
Area fans waited until barely a week before the tournament to find out whether Woods would attend. His first child was born June 18, and Tiger Woods chose to play, tying for sixth in a field studded with the game’s top players. K.J. Choi of South Korea eventually won the trophy, bettering the field by three strokes.
Tiger Woods’ appearance was the highlight of an action-packed sports year in the county, full of championships, near-misses and success at the next level.
The highlight of the winter was the all-Montgomery Class 4A state boys basketball championship game. Sherwood and Magruder, separated by only a few miles, met to decide the issue, with Sherwood beating Magruder for the third time that season, 61-38. Multi-talented Gazette Player of the Year Deontay Twyman, now a freshman on the Ball State basketball team, won his first title in three state championship games, after finishing a runner-up twice in football.
The basketball season was successful in general, with four other county teams also reaching the state semifinals. The B-CC boys and Blake girls finished as runners-up, while the Paint Branch and Whitman girls fell in the semis.
January saw Good Counsel football coach Bob Milloy, who won state titles at Springbrook and Sherwood, enter the Maryland Football Coaches Hall of Fame. The year’s first month also witnessed its ‘‘biggest” story — the signing of 7-foot-9 Chinese basketball player Sun Ming Ming by the Maryland Nighthawks.
County swim coaches voted to continue their association with the Washington Metropolitan Area Swimming and Diving Championships, or ‘‘Metros.” The meet’s existence had been under threat from the new Maryland state championship meet, but the county’s public schools will stick with Metros for the time being, because of its more prestigious, higher-level of competition.
The winter produced its share of frustration, as well, especially in the wrestling and ice hockey ranks. On the ice, Montgomery County failed to win a public-school state championship for the first time.
On the mats, Damascus finished as state dual-meet runners-up to Charles County’s La Plata for the second straight year, and only two individuals — Quince Orchard’s Mike Mascio (160 pounds) and Sherwood’s Andy Lowy (130) — won state titles. The biggest blow was a season-ending knee injury to Whitman senior Eren Civan in January. Civan had entered the season undefeated in his career, with a chance to become the third wrestler ever to win four Maryland state titles.
Montgomery County did not produce a single state team champion in the spring, but saw some top-notch individual performances.
Churchill senior Audrey Gariepy-Bogui led the way in track and field, winning titles in three events at the 4A state outdoor meet, bringing her career total to eight: five in outdoor, three in indoor. She led the Churchill girls to a runner-up finish, joining Poolesville’s girls and the Gaithersburg boys.
The roll of runners-up continued in other sports, with Damascus and Sherwood having particularly strong springs. Besides going head-to-head for the county’s co-ed volleyball title, the two schools were near the top of the heap in both baseball and softball. The Warriors finished second in the state in baseball; the Swarmin’ Hornets in softball.
The most notable runner-up finish of the spring belonged to Wootton’s boys lacrosse team. The Patriots became the first Montgomery County lacrosse team — boys or girls — ever to win a playoff game above the regional level, beating state power Dulaney of lacrosse-rich Baltimore County, 9-7, in the 4A-3A state semis.
Another lacrosse era ended when neither Georgetown Prep nor Landon reached the final of the Interstate Athletic Conference tournament. The two schools had shared every lacrosse title in IAC history, and met in the championship game of every league tournament.
It was a good spring for former county standouts going pro. In April, Silver Spring’s Tanard Jackson (Bullis) went in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Montrose Christian graduate Kevin Durant was named college basketball’s National Player of the Year in March before going second overall in the summer’s NBA Draft. And Damascus native Nick Noble (Georgetown Prep) began his Major League Soccer career this spring with the Chicago Fire.
Tiger wasn’t the only game in town this summer, when county natives stayed hot in the college and professional ranks.
ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian, a Walter Johnson graduate, published his book, ‘‘Is This a Great Game, or What?: From A-Rod’s Heart to Zim’s Head — My 25 years in Baseball.” Kurkjian may one day cover four county products drafted by Major League franchises in June: Connor Hoehn (Damascus), Casey Baron (Burtonsville), Jason Hessler (Silver Spring) and Ivor Hodgson (Silver Spring).
Also on the diamond, Sherwood grad Justin Maxwell had a stellar season in the minor leagues, which ended with a September call-up to the Washington Nationals.
After nine seasons as head football coach at Northwest, Randy Trivers also took a step up, becoming the running backs coach at Syracuse University. Northwest’s first-ever football coach, Trivers compiled a 73-27 career record and won the 2004 3A state title.
The summer ended on a sad note in August, when All-Gazette first-team boys basketball player Jeremy Herring of Kennedy was killed, along with his older brother.
The year was capped by a record-setting fall, and nowhere was it better than at Quince Orchard. Three Cougars teams won state titles: boys cross country, girls soccer and football. The result was a combined 11 members of All-Gazette first teams, including one Athlete of the Year (cross country’s Neal Darmody) and two Coaches of the Year (girls soccer’s Peg Keiller and cross country’s Seann Pelkey).
B-CC wasn’t too far behind in the state title hunt, with two. The Barons won 3A crowns in boys cross country and boys soccer.
The boys soccer season, however, belonged to Magruder. The Colonels went a perfect 19-0-0, scoring a school-record 85 goals and winning the 4A state title. They did it all in memory of coach Scott Alexander, who had passed away suddenly on March 26, at the age of 36, from a brain tumor that had been diagnosed just weeks earlier. Alexander led the team to the 2001 state title and an undefeated regular season in 2006.
The county faced other challenges this fall, as well. In September, the United States Golf Association announced that in spite of the success of the AT&T National, it was withdrawing the 2009 U.S. Amateur from Congressional, citing concerns about the course’s readiness to host a national championship.
County athletics programs dealt with a scare over an outbreak of a deadly skin infection, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. A number of county schools were affected, with most cases involving athletes.
November brought news of an incident in which a Blake football player in street clothes cut three Magruder players with a small knife in a post-game handshake line.
In spite of the difficulties, Montgomery teams pulled through in a big way. As the year drew to a close, nine county football programs qualified for the playoffs, a state record for one county. Three reached the state semifinals, and two added to the county’s state-title tally, with Class 3A Damascus joining Quince Orchard (Class 4A) in the winners’ circle.