Marriotts Ridge's stadium still needs a rubberized track and scoreboard installed, and the surrounding acres of practice fields have been freshly sodded, making them unplayable anytime soon. Inside the first-year high school in Marriottsville, more than a dozen rolls of carpeting and gymnasium floor must be laid, the weight room is without dumbbells and nearly every room has boxes to be unpacked before school begins in 12 days.

Evidence of a new school is everywhere -- from the freshly painted walls to the shiny floors to the clean smell that lingers in the building. But one of the biggest parts of the process of building a new school happened at 2 p.m. Monday.

Approximately 300 students gathered in the cafeteria before scattering to join sports teams on the first day in which Maryland public schools were allowed to begin practicing. A few hundred parents also were on hand.

"Everywhere you look, it's a work in progress," said Ken Hovet, athletic director and junior varsity football coach. "Every time something happens here -- a first goal, a first touchdown -- it will be a first."

On Monday, he could check "first practice" off the list. Marriotts Ridge, which this year will have only freshmen and sophomores and an enrollment of around 620, will primarily compete on the junior varsity level but will field varsity teams in cross-country, golf, tennis, and indoor and outdoor track.

On a sunny and hot afternoon, the first teams of Mustangs -- most looked more like foals -- began getting to know each other. Most students had been redistricted from Mount Hebron, Centennial, Glenelg or River Hill.

"When I walked in here the first time, I couldn't believe how big this place was," said freshman Dan Grady, who was among the 30 players trying out for the boys' soccer team. "But I like getting to go to a new school because it gives us a chance for everyone here to make a name for themselves. We're starting something here."

The football, soccer and field hockey teams practiced at Mount View Middle School, across the parking lot from Marriotts Ridge. The volleyball team practiced in a pristine auxiliary gym.

On the football field, Hovet and his staff members taught fundamentals, including how a player should tuck the ball under his arm or make a snap to the quarterback. They instructed more than 80 prospective players -- an impressive figure considering there will be only about 300 boys attending the school this year.

Soccer teams spent most of practice playing short-sided games, while the field hockey team worked on passing and dribbling. The cross-country teams took laps around the school, passing bulldozers that were digging a hole for a pond in front of the school and smoothing asphalt on the parking lot.

"A big part of it is just getting to know each other," said Emilie Killian, a sophomore field hockey player. "Last year at Mount Hebron we played with our friends, but this year a lot of our teammates are new."

Coaches are using this season to teach, giving players a chance to compete and create an identity for their school without the pressure of winning that accompanies varsity sports.

Coaches know players will make mistakes, and it's better to make them now than next year, when they will compete in the Howard County league, which fields some of the best lacrosse, baseball, cross-country, soccer and volleyball teams in the state.

"This year we just want to start a tradition, and it's not going to be easy, especially next year when we are playing against teams that have seniors and we won't have any," said Phil Martinelli, a sophomore soccer player. "We know it's only going to get harder."

Most players also recognize a big advantage of coming to Marriotts Ridge: playing time. It's unlikely that teams will cut many -- if any -- players. Sophomores who would have been deep on the depth chart at their old school felt they were given another chance to make a first impression.

"It's big because I think I can get more playing time here than I would have at Glenelg if I stayed there," said sophomore running back Mike Littlejohn. "I just want to be able to play."

Sports play a major role in forming a school's identity, which initially might be tough to accomplish at Marriotts Ridge. Players wearing Mount Hebron and Glenelg clothing far outnumbered those who were in Mariotts Ridge T-shirts and shorts. There was more Mount Hebron black and gold and Glenelg red and grey than Marriotts Ridge blue and silver.

Hovet told his football team: "I know a lot of you are sad that you had to leave Glenelg or Mount Hebron, and a lot of us come from different places. But right now you have one thing in common: You are all Marriotts Ridge Mustangs."

Cross-country runners Jackie Meisel, left, and Lisa Oziel work out near a construction site.Football player Michael Stishan, right, and other athletes take in an introductory talk.Prospective football players Matt Banta, left, and Tim Blair are in the cafeteria before practice.