Where, oh where, has the summer of 2011 gone?
Officially, there are still 36 days until autumn arrives; unofficially, summer ended on Saturday.
That was the day that public high school teams in Washington County were able to hold their first practices in preparation for the fall season, which begins Friday, Sept. 2, a mere 14 weeks since the end of the Spring 2011 season.
To put it into terms we use here in our office, we’re now taxiing down the runway, ready to take off on Sept. 2 with coverage of hundreds of high school events in the 2011-12 school year.
And besides a brief holiday layover, we’ll be airborne until Memorial Day weekend.
But boy, there were a number of big sports stories this summer.
On the national scene, the NFL ended a lockout and the NBA began one.
Tiger Woods made a much-(over)hyped return to the PGA Tour, but it’s obvious he’s no longer the same golfer who once dominated the sport. He looked about as lost during the PGA Championship as those three filmmakers in the woods in “The Blair Witch Project.”
There was no shortage of big local stories either.
Arguably the three most important players in the Washington Nationals organization played for the Hagerstown Suns this summer.
Bryce Harper, the top pick in the 2010 draft, started the season here and gained his independence from the Suns on July 4.
He made noise on the field as one of the top players in the South Atlantic League, but he ruffled some feathers when he said he was glad to be out of Hagerstown (or Single-A ball, depending on how you wanted to interpret his quote).
And don’t forget the kiss, the one he directed toward Greensboro pitcher Zach Neal after hitting a home run.
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was here for a one-game rehab gig and will likely end the season with the Suns’ highest batting average after his 2-for-2 performance.
Wednesday, Stephen Strasburg made his second rehab appearance in Hagerstown as he works his way back to the majors after Tommy John surgery.
Unfortunately, given all of those factors, the Suns rank 13th out of 14 SAL teams in attendance. But what do you care?
Little League tournaments dominated the scene most of the summer. They included a couple of gutsy runs by the Sharpsburg 9-10 All-Stars and the Conococheague 11-12 All-Stars.
Sharpsburg had to forfeit its first-round win in the District 1 tournament, but went on to win games in six consecutive days en route to the District crown.
Conococheague dropped its first game in the Maryland state tournament at Maugansville, rallied from four runs down in the sixth inning to win another game and beat Elkton twice to advance to the Mid-Atlantic Region tourney.
And the Hagerstown PONY B All-Stars made history as the first B team from the local league to beat its A team counterparts in tournament play. And they did it twice.
It was indeed a memorable summer. But as is always the case, time marches on. There are more memories to be made.
So please, fasten your seatbelts and put your trays in the upright and locked position. The fall season is ready for takeoff.
Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7728 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.