COLUMBIA -- When the Bullis School competed in what was then the Taco Bell Track and Field Classic in 2014, the Bulldogs brought five girls to Columbia.
"Nobody knew us," said Alexis Postell, a freshman at the time.
"The track announcer kept calling us bue-lis, like Ferris Bueller," said Joe Lee, the team's fifth-year coach. "It was funny."
The correct pronunciation is Bull-is, as in the team bulled its way to the championship of this weekend's Bojangles Track and Field Classic.
Three years after making the trip from Potomac, Md., with a skeleton crew, the Bullis girls finished with 55 points -- 10 more than High Point (N.C.) Central -- and won the championship Saturday at Spring Valley High School.
"It's cool for the kids because we try to tell them that you work hard, you stay consistent and you stay together," Lee said. "We're very big on staying together, being a family, things that are way bigger in life than track and field. When they see the rewards of that, it's very cool."
When Lee arrived at Bullis, a private school of fewer than 800 students in the first through 12th grades, he said the program had "maybe two or three actual track kids."
"Everyone else was just kind of taking it for credit," he said. "In our school, you have to do an activity for credit. It's kind of like gym class. So when I got there, people weren't taking it serious. It was a place where you went to get some free credit, where you didn't really have to show up, or people were inside playing basketball.
"So it was kind of culture shock when we were going to create a legitimate track program. A lot of them fought me on it, but a couple bought in, and we just built it from the ones who bought in, and eventually even the ones who were fighting me, they bought in, too. We wanted to bring a winning culture to the team and to the school, so that's kind of how it started."
"Freshman year we were decent, and then I guess people saw something in us that could really grow the program," said Postell. "We attracted people. We're just like magnets."
Bullis was "decent" enough in 2014 to put together a 4x100 relay that took first in the Taco Bell Classic.
This year, Lee said he has more than 60 athletes on his team, including about 30 girls, and the Bulldogs have taken their talented show on the road.
During the indoor season, Bullis attended meets at the University of Kentucky, Staten Island and the Armory in New York City.
The weekend before the Bojangles meet, Bullis competed in the Texas Relays in Austin. The team caught a flight to Texas March 29, flew home the Sunday after the meet and then took a 10-hour bus ride to South Carolina Thursday, arriving at about 2 a.m. Friday.
"Didn't unpack my bags," Postell said with a smile.
"We've got a great administration that supports us and great parent support," said Lee. "It's fun for the kids because it gives them a chance to see different parts of the country.
"We love South Carolina. Everybody's so hospitable and so friendly here. I can't tell you the amount of coaches from different schools that have come up to us and welcomed us. That's that southern hospitality that you hear about, but when you see it face to face, it's real nice. That's why we love coming here, just great people."
All the travel results in an overdose of bonding and a very close-knit team, not to mention one that's ready to take on all comers.
"I feel like going to these different meets, seeing the different competition, really puts us on another level," Postell said. "Going to Texas, we saw a lot of Texas teams that never really get to see us, so it really shows other people what we bring to the table, even though we're just a little school in Maryland."
The Bulldogs showed no signs of travel fatigue in Columbia. Postell teamed with freshmen Shaniya Hall and Leah Phillips and junior Ashley Seymour to establish a meet record in winning the 4x100 (46.32).
The quartet of Postell, Hall, Phillips and sophomore Lauryn Harris won the 4x400 in 3:52.06. Hall was the 400 champion in 55.56.
Among that group, Postell is the lone senior and one of just a few on the entire team.
"A lot of young talent," Postell said. "It's going to get better and bigger."
Indeed, it's Bullis as in bullish, a group determined to continue its rise up the ranks.