Load up the kids and pack up the car because we're off to tour scenic Montgomery County. But this trip will not stop at the usual attractions -- for the moment, forget Glen Echo Park, the fairgrounds and the National Capital Trolley Museum. We're off to visit Montgomery County's hidden treasure: its thriving sports scene.
(Trivia: Which Maryland county is home to teams that have won 40 football state titles, hosts elite soccer tournaments each summer and has produced a long list of Olympic swimmers? Yes, Montgomery County is the correct answer).
Above, Seneca Valley's Andre Smith runs for a touchdown in a game against Northwest last season. The Screaming Eagles have won 12 state titles, a Maryland record, which is a big reason why the stands are packed for every home game. Below, Alex Armstrong gets his kicks at a clinic at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
(Photos Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
Montgomery County is a hotbed for sports fans. From high school sports to amateur baseball, the county offers a great view for the passionate or casual spectator.
First stop: Germantown, home of Seneca Valley High School and the Screaming Eagles football team -- winners of a Maryland-record 12 state titles. It is no coincidence that the home of Maryland's most storied football program is one of the best places to catch a game. A gorgeous, recently renovated stadium is regularly filled with Seneca faithful on game nights, and the cheers and smells of food would make any football fan feel at home.
Exciting high school football can be found throughout the county, which has had 19 state champions since 1991. Other attractive places to watch a game include: Germantown's Northwest High (the defending Class 3A champion), Damascus (the 2003 4A champion and runner-up last season) and Poolesville (the county's smallest school but a regular Class 1A playoff squad).
Montgomery County houses one of the premier soccer facilities in the nation, the Maryland SoccerPlex, located in Boyds just beyond Germantown. The SoccerPlex opened in October 2000 and has 19 full-length soccer fields -- including a "championship stadium" with seating for 3,200 spectators.
In early March the SoccerPlex hosted D.C. United, the reigning Major League Soccer champion, in a Champions Cup game against Jamaica's Harbour View. The facility will host a busy schedule of tournament action throughout the year. Upcoming events include such competitive youth tournaments as the Potomac Memorial Tournament (May 27-30), Maryland State Cup (June 4 and 5) and the August Cup (August 26-28). In past years, the SoccerPlex has hosted the U.S. Youth Soccer national championship tournament, the country's top youth soccer event.
One of the best spots in the Washington area to watch baseball is Shirley Povich Field, located in Cabin John Regional Park in Rockville. Opened in 1999 and named after the legendary Washington Post sports columnist, the stadium is host to a variety of local baseball events and is the home of the Bethesda Big Train. The Big Train plays in the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball League, a summer proving ground for college players.
Povich Field also hosts Georgetown University's home games as well as high school-age teams from the local American Legion summer league.
Youth swimming has become one of the most popular summer activities in the county. Thousands of swimmers from ages 8 to 18 and of all ability levels compete in the 90-team Montgomery County Swim League, which runs through the summer. The league has produced such swimmers as Olympic champion Mike Barrowman and world champion Clay Britt, but the swim meets also can be a great way to spend a Saturday morning and meet your neighbors.