When Glenelg Principal Linda Wise announced over the loud speaker earlier this month that the school had won the People Tree Cup, few students knew what the award signified.
"I had never even heard about it before," senior linebacker Justin Frederick said. "But after our coaches explained it to us, I was, like, this is a pretty huge deal."
It had been nearly two decades since the school had won the cup, presented annually to the high school with the winningest athletics program.
"I remember when I first started at Glenelg 10 years ago, I'd watch most of the people leave after halftime of a football game because the band was done playing," Wise said. "And now if you look at the success all of our teams have had, it's been unbelievable for our school, our coaches and students and the community because the sports teams at Glenelg have become such a big point of pride."
Glenelg outscored River Hill by a point, preventing the Hawks from winning the award for the fourth time in six years.
Points are awarded based on league competition during the regular season. A county title is worth 11 points, second place is 10 points, all the way down to the last-place finisher, awarded one point.
This spring, Glenelg won county titles in boys' lacrosse and softball and had top-three finishes in baseball, girls' tennis, girls' lacrosse and girls' outdoor track to pass River Hill with 182 points.
"What makes this special is that usually you win a championship as a team, but we won this as a school," said Glenelg junior Jessica Hibbert, a member of the second-place cross-country and outdoor track teams and county champion indoor track team. "We won this award because every team at our school had a pretty good year."
Glenelg also won a share of the county title in football, field hockey, volleyball and boys' and girls' indoor track.
"If you told me going in that football, boys' lacrosse, softball, field hockey, girls' lacrosse and volleyball were going to lose three county games combined, I would have said, 'No way -- that's not going to happen,' " said Cameron Rahnama, softball coach and football defensive coordinator. "But after we got off to a good start, I think the coaches started looking at each other and started to think we have a shot to win this thing."
Glenelg's success extended beyond the regular season, though those results do not count in the People Tree Cup standings. The Gladiators won 12 region titles and the 2A state title in girls' cross-country. The boys' lacrosse team, volleyball team and girls' soccer team advanced to 2A finals.
Glenelg's success came despite not having one student-athlete receive a full athletic scholarship from a Division I school, though several received partial scholarships, including lacrosse players Joe Derwent (Mount St. Mary's) and Chelsea Kapp (American).
"There are schools that are bigger than us and have more talent than we do, but no one plays better as a team than we do," Derwent said. "That's why we won."