Pags and Wags are gone but the roaring ovation accorded the popular duo at Landon School's athletic banquet last year still echoes through the halls.

Ironically enough. Peter (Pags) Pagensticher and Russ (Wags) Gararin were not an unstoppable passer-receiver or pitcher-catcher combination. Both were football managers.

"You can't believe the job they did," said Landon football coach Lowell Davis. "I've always believed a manager should be an integral part of the program and here at Landon the job is so popular and highly respected, we have to have tryouts."

Indeed. There was a time student managers had brave the labels "water boy," "ball boy" or "pencil pusher." Many of the students became managers only to get out of class early or earn a free bus ride with the team to the game that afternoon.

At Landon as many as 14-15 students, some of them in fifth and sixth grades, serve as team managers or statisticians for the varsity and junior-varsity teams. In recent years, Davis and Myles Gladstone, an assistant coach-trainer and faculty adviser to the managerial staff, have added a film crew.

"You think you'd be in trouble if you lost your quarterback," said Gladstone, who came to Landon six years ago along with Davis. "If the managers suddenly vanished, I don't know what we'd do."

The Landon managers are a busy bunch. Aside from their statistical and filming duties, they handle all the field marking, equipment dispersal, making of playbooks, cleaning of fields and locker rooms, timing of practice drills, running the clocks at games and selling of equipment (socks, T-shirts etc) at the school store.

On the morning of an away game, the managers pile into two vans, drive to the opponents' school and begin preparation to make everything as comfortable as possible for the Landon Bears when they arrive.

"No headaches. All I have to do is coach," said Davis. "I don't look for anything. I don't worry about losing anything I know it's being taken care of."

The head managers this year at Landon are Chris Duncan and Rick Roberts. Steve Mitchell decided not to play this year and became an assistant trainer instead.

"I used to drive my brother (Dean) to practice every day and just hang around and watch," said Mitchell, a junior. "So I became a manager and worked on being a trainer. I tape and patch up the minor injuries. They call me Doc Mitchell."

Davis remembers one afternoon the van was not operating and one of the managers drove up in a new Jaguar XKE filled with blocking dummies.

"The kid had borrowed his father's car," said Davis, who is shooting for his fourth straight Interstate Athletic Conference title. "They have this year-to-year competition. Each group tries to outperform last year's group of managers."

Duncan acknowledged the manager's job is a highly competitive one.

"A lot of people are aware of what we do and they respect us for it," said Duncan. "I was a nonathlete and I wanted to be a part of the team. Nobody gives us a hard time."

Landon is just one of dozens of schools in the area where managers and statisticians have emerged into figures of importance and respect.

H.D. Woodson and Springbrook are among those with cred managers.

"They (girls) do the job. Susan (Myers) and Georgine (Georgina) have been out here from the first day of practice," said Springbrook coach Bob Milloy. "They are the first ones on the field and the last ones to leave. They even carry the blocking dummies around the field.

"The players didn't like the idea at first but after seeing the job they do, they've accepted the girls as part of the team," added Milloy. "About the only thing they've done wrong was walk into the boys' locker room one day looking for me. I told them that was a no-no."

Neither Victor Fuller no Brian Glascoe had any "feeling for being knocked around at Ballou" and they became managers.

"It's fun being a manager. Since I was in junior high, I wanted to be a manager," said Glascoe.

Fuller was a gymnast in junior high and wanted to be the drum major in the Ballou band. But until the band gets its marching act together, Fuller is biding his time as team manager and assistant trainer.

"I don't mind responsibility. In fact, I like it," said Fuller. "I get to travel a little and I like to watch the pompon girls. Oh, but I watch the game now and do my job."

A couple of years ago, there was the story of a manager who didn't think he was good enough to play basketball and became a manager instead. One afternoon the coach saw his manager taking advantage of several of his plays on a pickup game and, poof, end of manager position.

Maybe that was the manager's intention all along. In any case, the job scoffed at by some has certainly become very respected, and popular in many schools. Just ask Pags and Wags.