The Anne Arundel and Howard County public school systems have begun to install field surfaces that officials in both counties believe will improve the sports played on them. The move will especially benefit field hockey.

The counties will install lower-cut Bermuda grass at each high school and are willing to spend approximately $7,000 per field for materials. The turf, cut more closely than standard grass, will vastly improve the speed of play for field hockey.

"The game can't be played the way it's supposed to be played on another surface," Howard County Coordinator of Athletics Don Disney said. "The ball is small, and the entire ball has to be seen. It has to be like a golf green. If it's used in soccer, it's definitely going to make the game better and different as far as ball control is concerned."

Disney said Howard County has installed the grass at four of its 10 high schools and that each school should have a new field by 2002.

The county installed its first Bermuda grass field last year at Hammond and put in new fields at Long Reach, River Hill and Wilde Lake this year.

The project will be funded through the school system's maintenance budget, and the grounds department of the Howard County Public Schools installs the fields as part of its regular budget.

Anne Arundel County has installed new fields at six of its 12 high schools, including Arundel, South River, Old Mill, Broadneck and Meade.

Bill Crosby, the athletic grounds foreman for the county's public schools, said schools with the poorest field conditions are scheduled to receive new grass first, with plans for each school to receive a new field. The effort will mainly be funded by the maintenance division of the public school system.

Nearing a Milestone

Sixth-ranked Holton-Arms has a chance to make history Friday. If the school defeats Madeira, it will clinch the Independent School League title outright for the first time. A tie will allow Holton-Arms to split the title with fifth-ranked St. Stephen's/St. Agnes, while a loss will give the championship to the Saints.

On Oct. 5, Holton-Arms defeated St. Stephen's/SA, 1-0.

Holton-Arms shared the title with St. Stephen's/SA and Georgetown Visitation in 1997. But the school has not won the title outright since the league's inception in 1985.

Seventh-ranked Georgetown Visitation had a chance to clinch at least a tie for the title Tuesday, but fell to the Saints, 2-1.

"Our program has been close so many times," Coach Kim Hutcherson said. "Getting a share of the title two years ago will always be special because it was our first share. But having one to yourself will always be sweeter."

Holton-Arms is 14-2-1 entering its game against Madeira, which is fifth in the league with a record of 6-3-1.