End-of-the-season tournaments are upon Northern Virginia high school sports. Battles for district championships in swimming, gymnastics and basketball begin over the next few days, as does the regional wrestling championship.
Lake Braddock Secondary School has emerged as the team to beat in every sport except boys basketball. Lake Braddock has already captured the regional indoor track title and the Northern District wrestling championship. The Bruins gymnastics team is undefeated, their swim team is in first place, and their girls basketball team has been in and out of first place all season.
With an enrollment of nearly 4,000 students in grades seven through 12, Lake Braddock is one of Fairfax County's larger schools, a fact that is exploited by the school's athletic department.
"Our coaches get to see kids develop from the seventh grade," said athletic director Bob Carson. "They watch them and find out where the talent is.
"This year we've done well, mainly because we just have an awful lot of good kids in the senior class. Of course, a lot of our success comes from our coaching staff too," he said.
Traditionally strong in most minor sports, Lake Braddock has been some what of a surprise in girls basketball this year. New Coach Kay Norton has build a strong team led by Barb Murphy, Sandy Luther and Jane Smith.
"They've improved every game," Carson says of the girls, who recently beat Robinson. Last year's state champs, 45-42, for the first time in Lake Braddock history.
The boys basketball team is not considered a tournament threat in the Northern District where T.C. Williams, Robinson and West Springfield have dominated play all season. Any of those teams could with teams from Langley, Hayfield, Groveton, Lee, Jefferson and Stuart from the other districts.
Lake Braddock's wrestlers will face stiff regional competition from the other district champs - Lee (Gunston), McLean (Great Falls), and especially Falls Church (Potomac), which was 11-10 in the regular season and a walk-away winner last week in its district tournament.
The Lake Braddock girls gymnasts recently defeated Robinson, their primary Northern District foe, so their chances for winning the district tournament are considered good. In regional competition, howere, Woodson's outstanding Potomac District team is expected to be the season's most difficult challenge for lake Braddock.
In swimming, Lake Braddock is likely to receive stiff regional challenges from Woodson, Fort Hunt and Herndon.
Advancing to regional competition may be difficult for the Lake Braddock girls basketball team, because in the Northern District tournament they will probably have to get past Robinson and West Springfield, two formidable opponents.
But all-in-all, the feeling around Lake Braddock is that it has been a very successful winter.
MADISON HIGH SCHOOL - Bobby Brower, the fleet tailback of Madison's football team, said he will accept a four-year football scholarship to Duke University.
Brower became the surprise of area football this year when, as a senior who had never played on a football team before, he scored 18 touchdowns and average nearly 10 yards every time he touched the ball.
"I didn't want to go to a football factory," Brower said in explaining why he chose Duke. "It's a beautiful school with a good academic reputation."
Brower was also influenced by Ned Gonet, a Duke running back who starred at Oakton High School two years ago. "You might see two Vienna boys in Duke's backfield next year," said Brower, who added that Duke does not have a tailback returning next season.
Duke was the last of five schools Brower visited recently. The other schools were Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, William and Mary and the University of Cincinnati.
Brower does have on regret. "My heart's still in basketball," he said. "I spent my sophomore and junior years thinking about playing college basketball. Now it's hard to beleive that I won't be."
The 5-11, 185-pound Brower is a starter averaging in double figures on Madison's basketball team this year.
And in baseball, which he may or may not be able to play in college, Brower led the Northern Region in home runs last season.
GOVETON HIGH SCHOOL - William Whalen, Groveton's head basketball coach, is hoping his team, which has been plagued by the flu since early January, can regroup in time for district tournament play next week.
"last week was the first time he had 11 men in uniform in two weeks," Whalen said. "Prior to that, we had two or three kids out every game. I've had players come to the bench during a game and say they can't go on because they are dizzy and weal."
Whalen has kept his team together well enough to compile a respectable 13-5 record, including a running battle with Hayfield and Lee for the Gunston District lead.
"We were smooth at the beginning of the year," Whalen recalled somewhat wistfully. "We won four district games in a row, and we were doing everything right. We had such balance when everyone was healthy. Then our routine was messed up, and its been hard getting it back ever since."
Groveton, when healthy, is paced by John Morris (15.5 points per game), Keith Wilder (16) and George Jewell (16).