The first decade of the 21st Century is history, but as 2011 dawns on two of the Washington area's favorite obsessions -- politics and sports, though not necessarily in that order -- all eyes are turning to see what the New Year brings. To discern what the future may have in store for the region, there are 11 to watch in 2011 who, based on their personal ups and downs, triumphs and failings on the local and national stages, will greatly influence whether the century's second decade kicks off with a bang or a whimper for Washingtonians. VINCENT GRAY

The newly installed D.C. mayor will walk a political tightrope in 2011, trying to convince suspicious residents that he's not Marion Barry. Gray tried to set a conciliatory tone with some of his department head picks, but also made key appointments that ticked off some of his most vocal supporters, especially the police and fire unions. Nice start. Now, the hard part. Gray inherits double-digit unemployment and a $175 million budget deficit. He also has to deal with school reform and a threadbare social services safety net. There is little margin for error.


For a seven-year, $126 million contract, Werth left behind a Philadelphia Phillies team that won the last four National League East division titles, two NL pennants and a World Series to join a Washington Nationals team that's never even had a winning season. At 31, can he

at least lift the Nats to respectability? He had better produce. The Nats lost two of their three best hitters from 2010, trading outfielder Josh Willingham and allowing first baseman Adam Dunn to leave via free agency.


The incoming House Speaker just a few years ago disappointed conservatives, who saw him as an "establishment" Republican. But the 11-term Republican from Ohio and former House minority leader has proven surprisingly adept at uniting the various GOP factions while embracing the Tea Party conservatism that propelled his party to stunning electoral success in 2010 and Boehner to the Speaker's chair. His biggest challenge now: Maintain support among the party's limited government, anti-tax grass roots while striking compromises with President Obama and the Democratic Senate.


Three years after the former Alaska governor came to national attention as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, she a political force to be reckoned with. A heroine to the Tea Party movement with her own reality television show, two books and six-figure speaking fee, Palin in 2011 will have to declare her intention to run for president in 2012 or admit that she knew all along that she wasn't a viable contender and just wanted to cash in before her 15 minutes were up. Either way, her 2011 moves will be key to GOP aspirations to take back the White House in 2012.


Controversy in the D.C. public schools didn't walk out the door behind former chancellor and political lightening rod Michelle Rhee. Henderson, who stepped up to take Rhee's place when Vincent Gray was elected mayor, promises to continue Rhee's polarizing reforms -- firing ineffective teachers, closing under-performing schools and generally incensing the teachers' union. The only difference is Henderson is ready to do it all with a smile that says, "Business as usual, but we'll be nice about it this time." Gray has only guaranteed her job until June, so she'll need to build bridges fast.


The newly installed Prince George's County councilwoman and wife of former county executive Jack Johnson left behind in 2010 news accounts of $80,000 in cash stuffed in her bra, a $100,000 developer's check swirling down her toilet bowl and federal corruption charges hanging over her head. Sworn-in in December despite public calls for her to step down, Johnson was immediately barred by the council from influencing development projects in her 6th District and stripped of her committee assignments. Conviction on evidence-tampering charges would mean a quick end to her council career.


He's only been in office a year, but Virginia's Republican governor can serve only one four-year term under state law. So 2011 is the year McDonnell needs to start thinking about what he'll do next. National GOP leaders pegged him as a rising star with 2012 presidential potential. But McDonnell, who garnered national attention last winter by delivering the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address, would have to bust his promise to serve a full term if a national opportunity presented itself.


Few politicians possess the intellectual firepower and personal charisma of the incoming House Budget Committee chairman. Just last year, the 40-year old Wisconsin Republican offered his own alternative to the federal budget, one that eliminated President Obama's massive economic stimulus package, lowered taxes and froze discretionary spending. His "Roadmap to America's Future" provided a serious approach to entitlement reform, ending traditional Medicaid and Medicare and partially privatizing Social Security. Whether he can lead Republicans in dismantling the skyrocketing deficit will be a major story in 2011.


He is coming off the biggest public image disaster in the history of modern sport, 13 months of scandal, divorce, humiliation and a precipitous drop in his game. Woods didn't win a tournament in 2010 and hasn't won a major since his dramatic 2008 U.S. Open playoff victory over Rocco Mediate. He's 35, four majors behind Jack Nicklaus and rebuilding his swing with a new coach, Sean Foley. But when the U.S. Open comes to Congressional in June, all eyes -- as usual -- will be on Woods.


After a rough first season in Washington, the pressure will increase on Shanahan to turn the Redskins around. He has four years -- and $28 million -- remaining on his contract, but a losing record in his first year, failed trades and the drama surrounding Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb make a strong second-year showing an imperative. Critical to that future success are several key offseason decisions, specifically at quarterback. Be warned: The knock on Shanahan in Denver was his poor handling of personnel.


Is Uncle Mo the next Secretariat? The undefeated 2-year-old colt is already a Kentucky Derby favorite with short odds on becoming the first Triple Crown champ since Affirmed in 1978. Uncle Mo will run twice in Florida before arriving at Churchill Downs in May. By June 11 at Belmont Park, he could be a national hero. Owned by New York billionaire Mike Repole, the colt's name is a sports cliche for a team with momentum on its side. So far it is easy to see why.

Story reported by Lisa Gartner, James Irwin, John Keim, Scott McCabe, Brian McNally, Alex Pappas, Hayley Peterson, Rick Snider, Mark Tapscott and Bob Kemper.