Seventh in a Series

The first time Mary Beth Colvin walked through the doors at Liberty High School she was a wide-eyed freshman intent on making her mark at the new school, which was opening for the first time that fall of 1994.

There were no home playing fields yet, but that didn't prevent Colvin from becoming a four-year athlete in field hockey, volleyball and softball and enduring an unusual number of road games. There was no school tradition in place either, but she was determined to help create one: She served as the freshman and sophomore class vice president and the junior and senior class president.

"She was a model student," Athletic Director Jerry Carter recalled. "She pretty much did it all."

And now, back at Liberty as an English teacher and the Eagles' head field hockey coach and assistant softball coach, Colvin has a unique perspective on the changes that the Bealeton school has undergone in its first dozen years.

"Having been a student here, I remember how hard it was to have to play all of our games on the road," said Colvin, who is also the state director for the United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees) Warrenton Chapter. The Jaycees is a nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for those from age 18 to 40 to develop personal and leadership skills through service to others.

"We couldn't even practice at the school. And the numbers were so low we could only field one team," Colvin said. "There was no JV and varsity that first year. And then for my first year back at Liberty in 2002-03, to watch the field hockey team make it to the state tournament -- that was amazing. Such a big, big transition."

The facilities have certainly blossomed. Unlike many new schools, Liberty opened not only without playing fields but without money for field lights, bleachers or concession stands.

"We had a long way to go," Carter said, chuckling. "For the first six years our parents sold concessions out of the back of trucks. And we're still working on some of our bleachers. We've worked real hard and received so much support from the community to finally get things set up to where our programs could grow and our kids were put in a position to succeed. Twelve years may sound like a long time, but it's been a battle."

In the midst of it all, there also has been a tremendous growth spurt. Liberty's first senior class comprised fewer than 150 students. Now Liberty ranks as the largest Class AA school in the state.

"One student more and we'd have been bumped to [Class] AAA," Carter said. "It was that close. And if we were AAA we'd go play it. But given a choice, we'll stay right here in the Northwestern District."

Though the school's only state team title came in girls' outdoor track in 1998, Liberty has established formidable programs in many sports, including football, girls' basketball and baseball. Carter credits a big part of the Eagles' success to continuity among his coaching staff.

The girls' basketball team, entering its 12th season under the direction of Coach Ellen Allen, has advanced to the regional tournament in 10 of its 11 seasons. The Eagles' football team, under Coach Tommy Buzzo since its second season, claimed Region II titles in 1998 and 2001. The baseball team, the only team Ted Currle has coached, won the region title in 2001.

Then there is someone like Colvin, who left for Sweet Briar College before happily returning to her high school alma mater.

"I think I always knew I'd end up back at Liberty," Colvin said. "I at least hoped that I would. Because even when I was at Liberty, there was this sense of school spirit that was amazing. Such a close-knit community was exactly what I wanted to be a part of again."

Mary Beth Colvin, right, in her playing days at Liberty High School in 1997, defends against Fauquier's Sarah Cockerille. "Having been a student here, I remember how hard it was to have to play all of our games on the road," said Colvin, recalling a time when Liberty, as a new school, had no fields of its own. After college, Colvin returned to Liberty to teach English. She coaches field hockey and softball.