The Super Bowl. The World Series. Wimbledon.
The marquee events in professional sports are easy to identify every year. But what about can't-miss athletic competitions closer to home?
Here's a look at eight of the most anticipated annual events in Northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C., metro area for both spectators and participants:
<sh>1. Northern Region Basketball Championship
<bt>The boys and girls high-school varsity basketball seasons begin in early December. Four long months later, and the eight best teams end up at George Mason University's Patriot Center for the Northern Region semifinals and championship games.
How important is it to make it to Mason? When Chantilly High School player Caitlyn Gorski hit an overtime foul shot in the regional playoffs to win the game for her team, she said her only thought was "I want to win. I want to go to the Patriot Center."
Hundreds of parents, students and fans cram the Center for three days of hoops: girls semifinals on Thursday, boys semis on Friday and then a championship double-header Saturday night.
The teams that make the finals head to the Virginia AAA state tournament, but only one squad can be called Northern Region champs.
Tickets are available at the door on game night.
<sh>2. Virginia Gold Cup
<bt>This is the premier steeplechase event in the D.C. area. It has been run in Warrenton, Fauquier County, Va., since 1922. The event is typically held the first Saturday in May and features several steeplechase, pony races and Jack Russell terrier races during the day. The Gold Cup is traditionally a mainstay on Washingtonian social calendars and sells out quickly every year. Call 1-800-69-RACES for ticket information.
<sh>3. Kemper Open
<bt>The premier PGA event held in the Northern Virginia region takes place every late May/early June at the TPC at Avenel in Potomac, Md. Until 1987 it had been held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., for seven years.
Arnold Palmer captured the first Kemper title back in 1967. Greg Norman and Craig Stadler are among only a handful of golfers that have won the Open multiple times.
The four-day event draws massive crowds, including over 183,500 for the 2000 Open, but there is no limit to the number of people who can attend the event.
"The stadium golf course will absorb a tremendous amount of people," said Pete Cleaves, chairman for the Kemper Open.
Although he hasn't made an appearance yet, there is annual speculation PGA star Tiger Woods may play the Kemper.
Visit www.kemperopen.pgatour.com for more information.
<sh>4. Race for the Cure
<bt>The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation National Race for the Cure will be held in Washington, D.C., on June 7, 2003. It is the world's largest 5K run/walk, with more than 72,000 participants in 2001. The event raises millions of dollars every year to support local research, education, screening and treatment programs.
The Race registration fee is $25 for entries postmarked by an early deadline date. Late registration is $30. There is no registration on race day. For information, call 703-848-8884.
<sh>5. Super 45 Football All-Star Game
<bt>The Super 45 game is an annual event that showcases the top graduating high-school football talent in Virginia and Maryland. Forty-five players from each state fill two rosters in a rivalry Maryland has dominated in recent years. The game is typically held at the end of June or in early July at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, although it has also been played at the University of Maryland-College Park.
<sh>6. Legg Mason Tennis Classic
<bt>This annual pro tennis event is held in mid-August at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Washington. First played in 1969, it has become a featured event for players preparing for the U.S. Open. Over the years, the Legg Mason has been the best opportunity for local tennis fans to see the top men's players in America and the world. Among the competitors who have made the tournament finals are Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and the late Arthur Ashe. Call 202-721-9500 for more information about the event.
<sh>7. PONY Nationals Softball
<bt>This Loudoun County event features around 80 of the country's top softball teams on several age levels. It is a multi-day, national championship event that has rare matchups between teams from the East and West coasts. The fact that these games feature squads that have never played each other before makes for some interesting softball.
"It’s hard to judge because you don’t know the teams," said U-18 Shamrocks coach Tommy Orndorff.
<sh>8. High-School Football Rivalry Week
<bt>Every season, one game on the schedule means more than any other in high-school football: the final contest of the year, traditionally called "Rivalry Week."
Some of the Week 10 games feature city rivals, like W.T. Woodson and Fairfax. Others showcase teams close in geography like Herndon and South Lakes. Still others feature battles between perennial powerhouses, like Lake Braddock and Robinson Secondary.
No matter what the stakes are for the final standings, expect passionate play and packed bleachers for the final week of the season in November.