Brian Funk remembers his first day coaching Atholton's outdoor girls' track team. On March 1, 2004, he stood before a room filled with prospective runners and their parents.
"I promised them that we'd win a state title," he said. "When you say something like that, you have to back it up."
And this spring, 454 days later, the promise was fulfilled as Atholton ran and jumped to the 2A state championship at Morgan State University in Baltimore on Saturday.
"I remember when he told us that," said sophomore Nicole Robinson, who won the 100-meter high hurdles in 14.99 seconds. "I didn't know how to take it then, but I was hoping that our dream would come true some day, and it did."
Atholton sophomore Alison Smith posted victories in the 3,200-meter run (11 minutes 19.80 seconds), the 1,600-meter run (4:56.92) and 800-meter run (2:15.58) and teamed with senior Valerie Sloboda, sophomore Samantha Young, freshman Samantha Stehle and Robinson to win the 3,200-meter relay in a county-record 9:36.54. Smith played a part in 40 of her team's 68 points.
Edmondson took second with 58 points, followed by Middletown (51), J.M. Bennett (40), Friendly (35), Central (32) and Reservoir (31), which was led by junior Christine Vidmar, who won the discus with a toss of 125 feet 5 inches.
Atholton junior Alana Nedd posted third-place finishes in the 100-meter high hurdles (15.59) and high jump (5 feet), and sophomore Kate Caffrey added a fourth-place finish in the 3,200-meter run (12:06.30).
"Alison had a great day, but what was neat about us winning is that one person didn't carry us," Funk said. "We had a lot of girls come up big for us."
Atholton's mission began with Funk's first speech, but the Raiders really became inspired late last spring. Atholton came in fifth at the 2004 meet, but Funk made his team watch the award ceremony, especially the joy on the faces of J.M. Bennett's team members as they took the traditional victory lap.
"After that, everyone knew we had it in us to win. We just needed to dig down deep," Robinson said. "Watching them made us want to be able to take a victory lap."
Now the Raiders want to take another one next year. Atholton will lose just one senior -- Sloboda -- who scored points at the state meet. And Funk motivated this team for this season and the future with T-shirts that read "Success Breeds Success."
"Winning states was the most exciting moment of my track career, and we're still a very young team, and we're all going to get better," Smith said. "But it was a great experience to pass the team trophy to each other while we're running the victory lap. Hopefully, we can do it again."