Annapolis-area personal trainer Kerri Robbins will compete in the 2005 World Duathlon Championships, signaling her rise to the top of a sport she had barely heard of two years ago.
The 35-year-old from Davidsonville will travel next month to Australia for the event, which involves two distance runs separated by a bike ride. She hopes to place near the top of her age group, a lofty goal considering she purchased her first bike in May.
Robbins, a competitive runner since high school, tried the duathlon only because injuries forced her into it. She suffered a series of overuse injuries from running, so her doctors suggested she mix cycling into her training. Fifteen months later, she might feel more confident in the biking aspect of the duathlon. Strong rides propelled her to three second-place finishes in duathlons this summer.
"I just biked, biked and biked until it felt comfortable for me," Robbins said. "My coach and I knew biking was the hardest thing for me, so that's where we focused our energy. I guess it really paid off."
Duathlons vary in length, but the Australia race involves a 10-kilometer run followed by a 40-kilometer bike race, then a 5-kilometer run. It's a longer race, which suits Robbins just fine.
"She's in a lot better shape than most people, even most duathletes," said Max Shute, Robbins's coach. "The only problem I've ever had coaching her is trying to get her to slow down. She has a tendency to work too hard, but she's learning that rest is really important."
Said Robbins: "The funny thing is, I started doing this because I wanted to be healthy. Now I'm working harder than ever and doing great, but I still feel healthy. I'm just training a lot better."
Cheerleading's His Passion
Bob Wachowski brings fairly typical goals to his first year as a head coach at South River High School. He wants to increase the intensity of his program, force his athletes into better shape and improve the team's overall performance.
Wachowski, though, also brings something historically different to his new position: He'll be the first male head coach of the cheerleading team at South River.
"There are a lot of stereotypes, like the cheerleading coach is always supposed to be a woman," Wachowski said. "That's just the way it is. I'm sure there won't be any problems with me coaching, but it's a little unusual."
It's almost commonplace, though, for Wachowski, who spent 10 years as a head cheerleading coach at two schools in Pennsylvania before moving to Annapolis this summer to be closer to his parents. A former Division III college mascot, Wachowski quadrupled cheerleading participation in both of his previous high schools -- a trend he hopes to continue.
"There's no doubt that I expect a lot out of my athletes," said Wachowski, who will also teach math at South River. "I want every girl to be in top shape. It might be a little more intense than your usual cheerleading practice. We're going to run. We're going to work."
Said Jim Haluck, South River's athletic director: "What I like about [Wachowski] is he's really going to work these girls out and make it a serious sport. He's pretty intense. He's serious about cheerleading, and he's going to make us pretty serious about it, too."
Coaches Wanted -- Now
A handful of county teams might be without head coaches when fall season practice starts Monday. Southern's golf and cross-country teams and Glen Burnie's field hockey program are scrambling to find coaches at the last minute. If they don't, those programs might be in danger.
"If you don't have a coach, you don't have a team," said Glen Burnie Athletic Director Bruce Sider, who has searched for a replacement for T.J. Bathras since June. "I'm just hoping we don't have to drop the program. It's pretty nerve-wracking. I've never been in this situation before."
Southern Athletic Director Ted Gott knows this situation well. Last year, Jason O'Roark filled in as cross-country coach three days before the season started. Now, O'Roark is missing crucial paperwork, and the Bulldogs need to fill his position -- and the golf position vacated by John Aylor -- immediately.
"It's pretty stressful," Gott said. "We certainly would have liked to have these jobs filled by now. Hopefully, a few of our new teachers will volunteer for us."
Matt and Steve Gelety decided to run in the Annapolis Striders Championship Series to keep in shape and fill a few weekends during the summer. They never imagined it would turn into a head-to-head competition for the series title.
The two brothers, also Chesapeake cross-country teammates, are in first and second place in the boys' 14-19 division through five of the series' eight races. Matt (a junior) is a few points ahead of Steve (a senior), who focuses more on wrestling than cross-country.
"When I started running, I decided that I wanted to get better than my brother," Matt said. "You always want to be better than your older brother at something. Even though he's more of a wrestler than a runner, it's fun to compete for something."
The eight races in the championship series span in distance from a one-mile sprint to a marathon, and the series concludes in January. Series coordinator Reggie Haseltine said it provides a good mixture of races to keep every runner in shape -- a challenge the Geletys have seized on.
"I wanted to be devoted over the summer because I'm going to be our No. 1 runner this season," Matt said. "I've got to carry the team, and now I'll start the season in great shape."
New School, New Challenge
Perhaps nobody has more to adjust to at the start of the 2005-06 school year than Andrew Lazzor, who will be the head coach a different sport at a different school. Formerly the volleyball coach at Glen Burnie, Lazzor replaces Doug Sisson as the new boys' basketball coach at Chesapeake.
Lazzor played high school basketball in Pittsburgh and spent the past several years working as an assistant to Glen Burnie Coach Mike Rudd.
"Volleyball was just something I enjoyed, but I always wanted a head basketball job," Lazzor said. "I would have gone a lot of places for this opportunity, and Chesapeake seems like a pretty perfect fit."