In 2017, Washington County Public Schools joined Frederick County Public Schools in the Central Maryland Conference for high school sports.
The merger has been a great success.
“We work very well with Frederick County,” said Eric Michael, the WCPS supervisor of athletics. “We feel like it’s the best conference in the state. If you look across the conference when we get to state championships, we’re pretty much represented all the way across the board in the semifinals and finals between the two school systems.”
The CMC — which encompasses every sport except football — now will have a chance to be even better represented at the state level.
Among several changes to the conference beginning next school year will be the addition of Clear Spring, which initially had declined the invitation to join in 2017.
Clear Spring will bring the total number of schools in the CMC to 16 — all 10 FCPS schools and now six of the seven WCPS schools. Hancock, the smallest school in the state, will remain a nonmember.
“The first thing people probably think is that Clear Spring is small and can’t do it,” Michael said.
They likely would be proven wrong.
“Since Washington County joined the CMC, Clear Spring actually has more teams that have made appearances in the state semifinals or state championships than anybody else in Washington County,” Michael said. “They’re right there as competitive as everyone else when you drill down into it.”
Since 2017 in Class 1A, the Blazers have won two state titles in volleyball (2018 and ’22) and one in baseball (2022), and they’ve advanced to the semifinals in boys basketball (2018), boys soccer (2017) and softball (2021). They also have had individual state champions in tennis and track and field.
Clear Spring now also will be able to compete for CMC titles, with its athletes vying for all-conference honors. Its schedule of opponents also won’t be drastically different.
“It’s an opportunity to add another strong school into this mix,” Michael said. “And now with 16 teams, it allows us to do the conference a little bit differently.”
CMC will have four subdivisions
The CMC will remain divided into two divisions — Spires for the eight largest (4A and 3A) schools and Gambrill for the eight smallest (2A and 1A).
Beginning next school year, the Spires and Gambrill each will be divided into two four-school subdivisions, again based on size.
The subdivisions have yet to be named, so for now, we’ll call them “large” and “small.”
Here’s the breakdown, with enrollment numbers as of Sept. 30, 2022, for grades 9-11 in parentheses.
• Spires large: Thomas Johnson (1,543), Urbana (1,491), Frederick (1,447) and Tuscarora (1,334).
• Spires small: Oakdale (1,281), South Hagerstown (1,263), Linganore (1,226) and North Hagerstown (1,171).
• Gambrill large: Walkersville (945), Middletown (836), Williamsport (783) and Brunswick (653).
• Gambrill small: Catoctin (604), Boonsboro (590), Smithsburg (565) and Clear Spring (365).
“We currently have a survey out for all of our coaches, asking them some things, such as naming the subdivisions,” Michael said.
Another topic under discussion is a possible change to CMC championship games. Currently, in several sports, the Spires and Gambrill champions play each other for the overall conference titles at the end of the regular season. Now, instead, there could be division championships, in which the two subdivision winners meet.
“We want to get feedback from everyone,” Michael said. “Later this spring, we should have that information and probably will make those decisions. We’ll be ready to go by the end of the school year with all of that.”
Plans for each sport
Here’s the plan for each sport, which in most cases, allows more flexibility for teams to schedule opponents outside the conference.
• Girls and boys soccer: Each team will have seven automatic CMC games, playing everyone in its division one time.
• Field hockey (only an FCPS sport): Each team will have nine automatic CMC games, playing each other one time.
• Golf: Each team will have seven automatic CMC games, playing everyone in its division one time.
• Cross country: This sport will remain the same, except for a possible change to the conference championships. The question to coaches is whether they want to continue having one championship involving all CMC teams, or instead, separate championships for each division.
• Volleyball: Each team will have seven automatic CMC matches, playing everyone in its division one time.
• Girls and boys basketball: Each team will have 10 automatic CMC games, playing everyone in its subdivision twice (home and away) and everyone in the other subdivision once.
• Wrestling: Each team will face everyone in its division once, meaning seven automatic CMC matches for Spires teams and six for Gambrill teams. Clear Spring doesn’t have a wrestling program.
• Indoor track and field: This sport will remain the same with one CMC championship meet scored two ways — overall and by division.
• Baseball and softball: Each team will have 10 automatic CMC games, playing everyone in its subdivision twice (home and away) and everyone in the other subdivision once.
• Girls and boys lacrosse: Each team will face everyone in its division once, meaning seven automatic CMC matches for Spires teams and five for Gambrill teams. Clear Spring and Williamsport don’t have lacrosse programs.
• Girls and boys tennis: Each team will have 10 automatic CMC games, playing everyone in its subdivision twice (home and away) and everyone in the other subdivision once.
• Outdoor track and field: Like cross country, this sport will remain the same, except for a possible change to the conference championships. The question to coaches is whether they want to continue having one championship involving all CMC teams, or instead, separate championships for each division.
“The outdoor meet, it takes forever,” Michael said. “You’ll probably see people vote for having a Gambrill championship and a Spires championship, which would be eight teams in each one. They could be run on two different days, and you could flip-flop back and forth, holding one in Frederick County and one up here.
“We’ll see what everyone’s opinion is.”
Michael said the CMC also is looking at possibly adding more events in the near future, such as a girls wrestling tournament and a cheerleading competition.
“We’re really kind of asking our coaches and athletic directors about ways to expand and grow and improve,” he said.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Clear Spring to join Central Maryland Conference