Matthews Adapts on the Run

Gwynn Park's Steve Matthews is not your typical cross-country coach. He is 6 feet 4 and weighs 280 pounds. He knew "absolutely nothing" about the sport until three years ago. And he watches practice and encourages his runners while riding a bike.

Matthews, who also coached the Brandywine school's boys basketball team to the championship game of the Maryland 3A tournament last season, began coaching cross-country when the school was unable to find another coach.

What did he know about the sport when he started?

"I knew you ran a long way and in any kind of weather," Matthews said. "But I didn't even know how long the race was. Now, it's grown on me."

Matthews said he learned about the sport by watching videos, reading books and "watching other coaches and stealing everything I can at meets."

At first, Matthews said he found runners by making his basketball players participate in cross-country. But he has built the program into a 34-member team. The Yellow Jackets' top boys runners are freshmen Jerald Alston and Cedrick Chaney, sophomore Larry Hawkins and junior Patrick Harper, who is a forward on the school's basketball team. Junior April Butler is Gwynn Park's top girls runner.

As for his unusual method of running practice, Matthews joked that he works just as hard as the runners.

"I do the same amount of miles," he said. "But I do it on my bike."

Douglass Volleyball Is on Rise

Douglass volleyball coach Scott Christopher used to look down his bench and see one reserve player. Now he sees a strong future for the program.

The Eagles' roster has grown from seven to 11 in the past two seasons. And Christopher said Douglass has several talented freshmen and sophomores who helped the team to a 2-0 start after straight-set victories over Laurel and Parkdale.

Key players include sophomore outside hitters Michelle Deehan and Devon Fontenette and senior setter Joi Robbins. Deehan (5 feet 11) and Fontenette (6 feet) play club volleyball in Washington in the offseason, something few Douglass players have done in recent years. Robbins is a three-year starter.

The team also has received help from sophomore Tierra Jackson, a 6-2 sophomore middle hitter. Jackson is in her first year of organized volleyball after playing basketball last year.

"Tierra came to my classroom late last year and said she wanted to try volleyball," Christopher said. "When I called her over the summer to let her know about tryouts, she said she was really looking forward to learning the game. She is a great athlete and very quick."

Douglass is 26-6 since 1997, and Christopher hopes that success will continue.

"We have a lot of good older players, but we have a great foundation of young players as well," he said.

DeMatha Soccer Rolls Ahead

DeMatha's soccer team will enter its Washington Catholic Athletic Conference game against O'Connell on Friday trying to extend a unbeaten streak and break a losing pattern at the same time. The Stags are unbeaten in their past 25 regular season conference games. However, the Stags have lost to O'Connell in the WCAC playoffs in each of the past two seasons. . . . Riverdale Baptist's boys soccer team won the Panadiva Invitational tournament in Hanover, Pa., last weekend. The Crusaders went 4-0-1 in the tournament and outscored their opponents by 12-1.