Sam Oliver and Mary Finley have been eminently successful as coaches--last year, they took the Calvert High School baseball team and the Northern High School field hockey team, respectively, to the state semifinals. They know all about challenges.

But earlier this summer, the two accepted their toughest yet: Oliver as the Cavaliers' athletic director, Finley as his counterpart at the Owings school.

"It's like being responsible for 20 baseball teams, which is essentially what we run, instead of heading just one," said Oliver, who teaches special education classes at Calvert and coaches baseball. "You wanna know why I really took this job? Insanity. Temporary insanity."

Oliver, entering his sixth season as the Cavaliers' head baseball coach, was a late entry into the run for the athletic director's spot at Calvert after the departure of Jim Chaney, who left the position after a 10-year stint to further his graduate studies. Chaney already holds a master's in education. Oliver's hesitation to throw his name in the ring, he said, was not about a lack of desire for the new position but about a need for soul-searching.

"Oh, I don't know exactly why I was so hesitant, except that I'm getting old," Oliver said, laughing. "I wasn't sure at first what I wanted to do with my time, but I did know there is a lot of fish still to catch. But after I thought about it, I thought it was something I could help with. And I haven't really had a change in my schedule for about 10 years, so I needed something. This is definitely something different--and challenging."

Finley, who resigned as Northern's field hockey coach after last season's run to the state semifinals, said her response took far less time. Approached about the job shortly after former athletic director Scott McComb announced he was returning to a teaching position at Calvert, Finley jumped at the opportunity.

"I've always enjoyed a challenge," said Finley, who has taught everything from physical education to chemistry, and will continue to teach physical education. "I was the instructional assistant to the AD when I was at Calvert years ago, so I know the position from the very bottom level. This was a move up for me, and at my age I'm interested in moving up before they move me out."

The duties of the athletic directors include scheduling games for the 17 different sports offered (most of which are done so on the varsity and junior varsity levels), arranging for transportation to and from away games, ordering uniforms and proper equipment, renovating fields and practice facilities, hiring new coaches, fund raising and promoting their schools' sports teams.

Finley will be one of five athletic directors in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference who does not also serve as a head coach for one of the school's varsity sports programs. Oliver will be one of the seven who do, joining Rich O'Donnell of Chopticon (boys basketball); Glenn Larnerd of Leonardtown (boys basketball and baseball); Kim Roof of Patuxent (softball); Chip Gateau of St. Mary's Ryken (baseball); Steve Datcher of Thomas Stone (boys basketball); and Dominic Zaccarelli of Westlake (football).

Finley said she resigned as field hockey coach after the Patriots' 1998 season, in part, to spend more time watching her son, Tim, play soccer in the fall. Tim is a rising junior at Northern who backed up his older brother, James (a 1999 graduate), last year at goalie.

And it's Finley's love for all games--and for students and athletes at Northern--that made this opportunity the perfect one for her.

"I was always around here anyway, always cheering one team or the other on," Finley said. "So what could be a better job for me? None. I'm here because I enjoy the kids, and this gives me an ever greater opportunity to work with them. I must confess, I'm already looking forward to fall practices starting just to have them running all over the school again."

Oliver said he is glad he has more than six months to get used to his new role as AD before adding the responsibilities of coaching the baseball team he led to the state semifinals each of the past two seasons.

"Still, I have to tell you I'm very much looking forward to it all. I know it's going to be challenging and time-consuming, but it also melds my two loves: working with people and high school athletics. I'm going to do as much to support our head coaches and take as much pressure off them as I possibly can."

Brendan Galligan, a rising senior who plays football and baseball for the Cavaliers, said he was surprised when he heard Oliver had been named the new athletic director, but he said he never worried about having to play under a new coach.

"I was surprised when I heard it, but only because he already does so much for the students at Calvert," said Galligan, the team's starting catcher. "But I never worried about baseball. I think at the end of the year he made it clear he was coming back for at least one more season. In his speech at Joe Cannon Stadium [after the state semifinal game] he said for sure he'd be back. I knew that wouldn't change."

CAPTION: Sam Oliver will maintain two roles: athletic director and baseball coach.

CAPTION: Mary Finley, who had coached field hockey, called her new job "a move up."