When Ryan Simonica came to the newly opened Oakdale High School two years ago, the school felt much different than it does now.
Students, who a year prior would have been attending class at Linganore, Gov. Thomas Johnson or Urbana, were starting a new tradition at a school many might not have wanted to be at. But Simonica embraced the chance to start a new tradition.
“It was something I really looked forward to, having he opportunity to start a new legacy,” the senior wrestler said. “We were starting a new program and starting it from the ground up. That seemed pretty cool.”
Simonica and his fellow senior athletes — Oakdale’s first senior class — have helped develop the Bears into an up-and-coming competitor in the Frederick high school sports landscape and laid the foundation for future success.
The biggest challenge might have been developing school pride.
Senior cross country runner Sydney Ryan said that when she started at Oakdale many people didn’t want to be at the school.
“We realized we’re not going back so we had to make the best of all of it,” she said.
Athletic Director Chris Krivos said the community has played a large role in building tradition.
He said it’s easy to find Oakdale decals on the backs of cars, that the fans notoriously travel well to away games, and that home football games sell out despite a 2-18 record during the first two years.
“I’ve often said, ‘Imagine if my football team starts winning,’” he said.” Imagine what crowds we’ll have then.”
Despite starting with less students than any other high school in the area, it didn’t take long for the Bears to win their first state title.
In its first year, the girls soccer team won the 1A state championship by defeating Mountain Ridge, 2-1.
The boys swimming team and the girls track program followed with county championships. Krivos believes several of the Bears’ winter teams will be in the mix for titles this year.
He said the biggest reason for Oakdale’s early success is its coaches.
“I have what I consider the best group of coaches in the state of Maryland across the board,” Krivos said. “We don’t make excuses about being young. We’ve taken our licks, but we’ve handed some licks out. Our goal as an athletic department isn’t to be defined by one sport. We want to win in everything and we intend to win in everything, and we want to do it the right way.”
From a coaching standpoint, the first group of graduating seniors brings on new challenges.
“Today I was driving around and I realized, I really haven’t lost anyone yet,” wrestling coach Bill Swaney said. “It was a little bit of a reality check that now I’m going to have to start planning for kids graduating and not being back.”
Simonica, who wrestles at 220 pounds, has noticed the differences at the school.
Not only are the hallways more full, but he sees more people taking pride in calling Oakdale their school.
“People have grown to love the school. They may have been iffy about it before, being at a new school and meeting new people,” he said. “It’s an experience very few people may have in their lifetime. It’s just a cool experience and I’m happy to be a part of it.”