Coverage of last year's sniper shootings, the death penalty, problems with the local United Way organization and a deadly battle with a shark were among the award winners for which The Washington Post was named newspaper of the year in the annual competition held by the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association.

The Post received 14 of the first-place awards given to newspapers with a daily circulation greater than 75,000. The Washington Times won 10 top awards, the Baltimore Sun received six, and the News-Journal of Wilmington, Del., was awarded two.

The Post staff won the two top prizes in the spot news category for sniper coverage. Coverage of the arrest of the two suspects took first place, and coverage of the initial day of the shootings took second.

The judges said the winning sniper coverage was "unparalleled." "In a glut of coverage, this package emerged as clearly superior," they said.

A team of Post reporters who detailed the impact of the death penalty won in the general news category.

Other Post first-place winners were: Hamil R. Harris for coverage of religion; Jacqueline L. Salmon and Peter Whoriskey for continuing coverage of problems within the United Way; Anne Hull for a series on the evolving face of America; Michael E. Ruane for a feature story on the death of a shark fisherman; Justin Blum in the local government category for a story that explained how lawyers profited through their involvement with the educational needs of disabled children.

The judges praised Harris for his "thoughtful" approach. They cited the work of Salmon, Whoriskey and Hull as "compelling." They said Ruane's work was "reminiscent of Hemingway," and credited Blum's as an "exhaustive, complete work."

The Post's Carol Hutchinson won for an "eye-catching" best headline. Brigid Schulte received top honors in the education writing category for an "insightful and disturbing" story on language barriers facing some students born in the United States. Peter Behr and April Witt were honored for their "well-researched, beautifully written" work on the demise of Enron.

Sandra G. Boodman won the medical writing award for her "deeply researched" work on health-care safety issues. Sally Jenkins won the sports features award for providing "a new perspective" on Redskins coach Steve Spurrier. The Post's James A. Parcell received the top prize for feature photography for a "wonderful study in cultural paradox" that pictured an Amish buggy in Southern Maryland.

The Post also was judged to have published the best special section of the year, with its review of the impact of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks one year later.

The Washington Times swept all three first-place awards for page design, and Patrick Hruby of the Times sports staff was a double first-place winner for a sports story on Pete Sampras and for demonstrating a "tremendous command of the language" in his column writing. Times photographers won three first-place awards, and the newspaper also took two top awards for graphic presentations.

The Baltimore Sun won three of the most-coveted prizes. Walter F. Roche Jr. and Willoughby Mariano of the Orlando Sentinel won first place for investigative reporting for a jointly published series with the Sun that revealed hundreds of Micronesians and Marshall Islanders were recruited to hold low-paying jobs in amusement parks and nursing homes in the United States.

Sun reporters Jim Haner, Kimberly A.C. Wilson and John B. O'Donnell won the public service award for an "impeccably researched" series that detailed serious flaws in Baltimore's criminal justice system. In addition, Michael Dresser and William Patalon III received first-place honors in the state government category for their coverage of problems with the state pension system. The Sun also won two top awards for opinion writing and a third for best editorial cartoon.

The News-Journal won first-place awards for the best sports photograph and for a graphic presentation.