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Field hockey training, image courtesy AVA Magic

Philomena Fitzgerald grew up frustrated that she had to travel outside of the city to play field hockey, so when her younger sister faced the same problem Fitzgerald took matters into her own hands and launched Alexandria’s first field hockey program.

Fitzgerald launched AVA Magic, Alexandria’s only field hockey club, with her father Alex Purugganan. The program started with training clinics this spring that have tapped into a small but growing local community of field hockey enthusiasts.

“I started field hockey way back when, maybe 10 years ago, we were looking for a club,” Fitzgerald said. “We looked for a nearby team and the closest one was 45 minutes away. Ten years later and now my sister is in the same spot I was ten years ago.”

For her day job, Fitzgerald works for the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, so she said she has some experience in launching a program like this from the business side.

“That stuff was easier because it’s what I’m used to doing,” Fitzgerald said, “but it’s interesting figuring out events and the club side.”

Purugganan said the program has had a very grassroots start with the pair reaching out to other locals they know through years of playing field hockey outside of the city.

“We’re slowly growing through word of mouth as well and we’re reaching out to ACPS just to make them aware,” Purugganan said. “Although soccer has become really popular, we want people to know there’s another option for girls’ sports here. We’ve had so many outstanding athletes who have played field hockey, but they have to search for a travel team outside of Alexandria. We want to be able to celebrate our own Alexandria athletes and help them represent the city.”

One fo the big selling points for field hockey, Fitzgerald said, is that many of the skills learned in soccer translate well into field hockey.

“It’s very easy to transition from soccer to field hockey, which sounds insane at first because it’s a stick and you can’t use your feet, but it’s 11 v 11 and the positions are similar,” Fitzgerald said. “If you know soccer and you know the tactics, it’s easy to transition that over to field hockey. I went back and forth between soccer and field hockey in high school, and the big thing for me was the environment field hockey brought. It wasn’t just competitive, it was extremely fun. All the girls I met were extremely welcoming and fun.”

Fitzgerald said the program is starting small, with classes for children under 12 and under 14 aiming to “get the basics down and spread awareness.”

The sessions are $65 each for 6th-8th graders or $250 for all four sessions in a season, and $58 per session for 4th-5th graders or $225 for all four sessions.

“I’m extremely optimistic,” Fitzgerald said. “One of our clinics this past Sunday went extremely well. It was new for almost everyone who was there. It was only five girls, but everyone had a great time, everyone was chatting, and a bunch of them signed up for the clinic this Sunday. I’m excited not just for the club itself, but the girls I played with in high school are reaching out to see how they can help.”

An upcoming clinic on Sunday, May 1, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at George Washington Middle School (1005 Mount Vernon Avenue) is the last clinic for the club’s spring lineup. The plan is to start a new series of clinics in June with visiting coaches from D.C. schools, Bishop-Ireton and a former midfielder from the US Naitonal Team. According to Purugganan:

  • Mon, 6/13 — with guest coach Liz Blount, Alexandria City High School Varsity Field Hockey Head Coach
  • Wed, 6/15 — with guest coach Robyn Kenney, former US National Field Hockey midfielder and current Director and Lead Instructor of Mind Body Athletics
  • Mon, 6/20 — with guest coach Erin Simons, Bishop Ireton High School Varsity Field Hockey Head Coach
  • Wed, 6/22 — with guest coach Marsha Way, former St. Stephen & St. Agnes High School Varsity Field Hockey Head Coach of 35 years

“We’re building this community,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s a great environment, great girls, but there’s nothing close by. We live in an athletic city, but we want to have more options.”

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Pickleball courts, via Frankie Lopez/Unsplash

Alexandria’s Park and Recreation Commission is deciding whether to add pickleball courts to more local tennis courts and is looking for public input on the decision.

At a virtual public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 17, the Commission hosting a public hearing to get public feedback on the proposal. The Commission is looking at where to put the new courts, as the funding has already been allocated for the needed infrastructure and court markings.

“The Park & Recreation Commission will provide a recommendation to staff regarding locations to expand pickleball court installations in the City,” the city said in a press release. “The Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities (RPCA) requested additional funding in FY2022 to provide infrastructure and court markings to provide more pickleball courts and improve the level of play for pickleball users. In response to the Department’s request, RPCA received $20,000 to expand pickleball facilities in FY2022.”

The project is budgeted for $20,000 with each location costing $4,000 to renovate.

A city report said that the city is already in the process of converting single-use ball courts into multi-use courts, with Lee Center Courts and Mount Vernon Court already having pickleball facilities added to the existing tennis courts.

“Pickleball has increased in popularity in the last several years,” the report said. “RPCA requested additional funding in FY2022 to provide infrastructure and court markings to provide more pickleball courts and improve the level of play for pickleball users.

The conversion would involve adding movable nets with new lines demarcating pickleball courts on each side of the tennis court.

The report said the following courts could get renovated for pickleball use:

  • Armistead L Boothe Park (four pickleball courts)
  • Chambliss Park (four pickleball courts)
  • Chinquapin Park (five pickleball courts)
  • Eugene Simpson Stadium Park (four pickleball courts)
  • Lee Center (four pickleball courts)

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be attended via link on the city website.

Photo via Frankie Lopez/Unsplash

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After seven years in Del Ray, Ascend Cycle (2417 Mount Vernon Avenue) is permanently closing by the end of the month.

Owner Kat Zajac made the announcement this week on social media, and said that the effects of the pandemic proved too much for her business.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I write this announcement,” Zajac wrote. “The impact of the pandemic has continued to be very real across this year. While this decision may come as a shock to some of you, it has been something that I have been working to avoid for quite some time.”

Zajac thanked customers and staff, and said that the closure was not due to a lack of effort.

“From creating an outdoor studio, to online programs, to moving our location to save on rent, to being as frugal as possible, we made every effort imaginable to stay alive,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, our efforts have proven to not be enough – the time has come to let go. This decision comes with a whole host of emotions. Despite it all, I feel grateful to have been surrounded by an amazing community of people. So with that, I want to say thank you.”

Via Facebook

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The Alexandria Police Department confirmed that a firecracker, not gunshots, prematurely ended a football game Saturday between Herndon High School and Alexandria City High School (ACHS).

“The game was called with less than three minutes remaining,” said Claire Going, a spokesperson for Alexandria City Public Schools. “Fans began self-evacuation. Once the source of the noise was determined, an announcement was made to let people in the stadium know what had caused it.”

The incident occurred less than a week after a shooting just a few blocks from the school. Police confirmed that the source of the sound was a firecracker, not gunshots.

“There was a loud bang which turned out to be a firecracker,” said Senior Public Information Officer Amanda Paga. “The game was stopped and the stadium was evacuated.”

The ACHS Titans won the game 41-7 over Herndon, according to the Alexandria City High School Football Boosters.

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Morning Notes

Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza and Tap named in top 100 restaurants in U.S. — “Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza and Tap, owned by the Yates family of Alexandria, was just placed on OpenTable’s list of the 100 Best Neighborhood Gems in America for 2021.”[Zebra]

Retiring City Manager talks to Agenda Alexandria — “Retiring #AlexandriaVA City Manager Mark Jinks talks about his career in @ArlingtonVA and @AlexandriaVAGov, including everything from redeveloping Landmark Mall to building the Potomac Yard @wmata station @agendalexandria #AgendaAlexandria” [Twitter]

Former police chief named to ACPS Athletic Hall of Fame — “Former Police Chief Earl Cook (was) among the Legendary sports stars of Alexandria honored Sept. 18 as ACPS holds its Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony at 2 p.m. in the Alexandra City High School Gerry Bertier Gymnasium.” [Gazette]

Alexandria has secret Magnolia Bogs — “Despite their rich history and importance in the local ecosystem, many in the area are still unaware of the existence of these unique micro-ecosystems.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy (during the day). High 81F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy in the evening, then off and on rain showers after midnight. Low near 70F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Delivery driver — “Deliver food in your bike or car from local restaurants to homes and offices around Downtown. Be your own boss! Decide when to work depending on availability and needs. Deliver all days of the week between 10:30am–10:30pm.” [Indeed]

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After more than 50 years of playing football early and in the dark, the Alexandria City High School Titans won their first game under lights at the newly renovated Parker-Gray Stadium.

After a years-long renovation project was completed, City and Alexandria City Public Schools leaders cut the ribbon on the stadium, bringing a close to generations of legal challenges that prevented the installation of the lights.

The Titans won the contest against Justice High School 34-7.

https://twitter.com/ACPSk12/status/1438986203018276868

https://twitter.com/AlexCityTitans/status/1438994713097515012

Photos via Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr.

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What an interesting week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

World champion sprinter Noah Lyles brought home his bronze medal from the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday. In a frank, TED Talk-like speech at Alexandria City High School, Lyles talked about the importance of mental health as he struggled to perform at the games.

“A lot of people will look at the Olympics this year like something was different with the athletes,” said Lyles. “Well, it was a lot of difference because we had so much weight that we had to hold onto — about two years. I was no different.”

On the COVID-19 front, while the transmission level remains high in Alexandria, this week the city tied with Arlington for the lowest seven-day positivity rate in Virginia. Large outdoor public events are still happening, too, and on Monday, a vast majority of local elected officials and candidates converged for the Alexandria Democratic Committee’s annual Labor Day Picnic, which included an appearance by gubernatorial candidate, former Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Man arrested for spending spree after finding wallet in Bradlee Shopping Center parking lot
  2. COVID-19 Update: Alexandria ties with Arlington for lowest seven-day positivity rate in Virginia
  3. BREAKING: Pedestrian critically injured in Old Town car crash
  4. Mark Center development plans head to Planning Commission this week
  5. Alexandria Police union calls out years of executive mismanagement
  6. JUST IN: Suspects arrested after allegedly firing shots at Alexandria Police
  7. BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
  8. Mayor outlines upcoming plastic bag tax plans
  9. Village Brauhaus aims for rooftop expansion
  10. No injuries or arrests after shots fired in Old Town Sunday night
  11. Most expensive homes sold in Alexandria in August

Have a safe weekend!

Via Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr.

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Morning Notes

Gun used in murder belonged to suspect’s bondsman — “The homicide of Alexandria resident Karla Dominguez last summer sparked widespread uproar because her alleged murderer, Ibrahim Bouaichi, had been released on bond in April despite having been indicted for allegedly raping and assaulting Dominguez in October 2019. Now, new information reveals that the bondsman who posted bail for Bouaichi knew him beforehand and that both the vehicle and weapon Bouaichi used to commit the murder belonged to the bondsman, Man Nguyen.” [Alex Times]

Twenty years later, residents recall the September 11 attacks — “Two residents had been on the plane that hit the Pentagon and many more residents had friends and other people from their lives who had been killed or impacted by the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon and the crash in Pennsylvania. On Friday, Sept. 14, the city held a candlelight vigil at Market Square, with residents filling the area in front of city hall and overflowing onto King, Cameron and Fairfax streets.” [Alex Times]

River Farm negotiations continue despite developer interest — “The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust is claiming that a developer has given a letter of intent to purchase River Farm. The American Horticultural Society, which listed River Farm for sale in 2020, said it continues to only consider an offer from NOVA Parks.” [Patch]

Wegmans announces May 2022 opening in Carlyle — “Wegmans is building an 81,000 square-foot store in Alexandria just west of Hoffman Town Center off of Eisenhower Avenue. The grocery store at Carlyle Crossing is part of a mixed-use project on a 5-acre site.” [Alexandria Living]

Patrick Henry Recreation Center offers co-ed pick-up indoor futsal —  “All games have a running 8-minute clock, three goals to win, or the team ahead after 8 minutes stays on the floor. This drop-in program is free for City of Alexandria residents.Teens ages 12 to 15 meet every Saturday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Adults ages 16 and up meet every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.” [Facebook]

Today’s weather — “Mainly sunny. High 78F. Winds NNW at 10 to 20 mph… A mostly clear sky (in the evening). Low 56F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Watch officer — “The Watch Officer oversees the Department of Emergency & Customer Communications (DECC) call center operations and provides supervision to the department’s Public Safety Communications Supervisors. This position is responsible for monitoring, analyzing and assessing the potential impact that local and national threats may have on City-wide systems and resources; maintains communication with stakeholders including departmental staff, local and regional emergency communications officials, and the public; manages the department’s quality assurance program and accreditation program; and serves as the notification point-of-contact for information responsible for managing the Employee and Public Alerting System utilized by the City.” [Indeed]

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The pressure was on. After a COVID-delay of more than a year, Alexandria sprinter Noah Lyles was finally racing against the top runners in the world at the Tokyo Olympics. The gun fired, and 19.74 seconds later he was the winner of the bronze medal.

Lyles returned to his alma mater, Alexandria City High School, on Tuesday (September 7) to talk about his unexpectedly long journey to the Olympics. In a frank, TED Talk-like speech, he talked about the importance of mental health, and described talking about being depressed with his therapist.

“When 2020 started, it felt like a normal year,” Lyles said. “I’d just come back from doing a whole bunch of interviews and photoshoots with NBC and they’re talking about the Olympics, and ‘How we’re going to be plastering you everywhere. It’s gonna be the biggest thing that summer,’ and (I’m) like, ‘Yes! So excited, This is fun.”

Then COVID hit, Lyles said, and he was forced to put his plans on the back-burner and keep mentally and physically fit until the games were rescheduled.

“All that energy that we had built up in a 2020 year, we had to save on to that stress and that pressure and push it on for a whole other year,” he said. “A lot of people will look at the Olympics this year like something was different with the athletes… Well, it was a lot of difference because we had so much weight that we had to hold onto — about two years. I was no different.”

Lyles continued, “I was disappointed that I didn’t get what I wanted. And I was disappointed that it happened like that. I didn’t get to show my greatest self. I knew walking into Tokyo that I was ready to PR, but I didn’t get to show that. I didn’t have a team with me. And that hurt in the whole Tokyo experience. It was very emotional. And I always thought in my head four years ago, when I went through this, it was going to be others. I was going to be able to celebrate, I was gonna not be alone. But it felt very alone.”

Just weeks after the games, Lyles was asked to return to the track in the Diamond League Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon. At first, he says, he didn’t want to race and spoke with his therapist about it.

“She said, ‘I think you’re scared,'” Lyles recalled his therapist saying. “‘You don’t get defeated often. So, when you do, you didn’t know how to react.’ I said ‘You might have a point.'”

The 24-year-old ended up defeating his Olympic rivals and running the ninth-fastest 200 meters in history, clocking in at 19.52 seconds.

“I feel that even though we’ve been going through this 2020-21 year, and we’ve all been feeling a little bit of pressure that maybe this can help you guys out a little more,” Lyles said of his story.

The event was sponsored by the Lyles Brothers Sports Foundation, Lyles’ mother, Keisha Caine Bishop, also spoke at the event and said that she introduced mental health therapy to her children at a young age.

“We are huge advocates for mental health,” she said. “Sometimes we all need help.”

https://twitter.com/AlexCityTitans/status/1435335090998030343

Photos via Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr.

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What a busy week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Alexandria City Public Schools reopened their doors to full-time in-person instruction on Tuesday, and there have been a few hiccups. On Friday, we published a video taken of a brawl inside Alexandria City High School, and a teenager was hit by a car while walking home from school in Del Ray on Thursday.

This week was dominated by crime stories, although other big events occurred, such as the City breaking ground on a new broadband network.

In our poll this week, we asked if readers agree with a proposed 5 cent tax on plastic bags. Out of more than 900 votes, 62% said it shouldn’t be implemented and 38% said it should.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria man arrested for beating up ex-girlfriend in Old Town North
  2. Fox put George Washington Middle School into a lock-in today
  3. Design realities could conflict with promises to speed up stormwater improvements in Alexandria
  4. City breaks ground on new broadband network
  5. Poll: Do you support the proposed 5 cent plastic bag tax?
  6. This Alexandria gym manager went rogue and launched a personal training business
  7. Alexandria kicks off Restaurant Week tomorrow
  8. Alexandria sees huge spike in COVID-19 cases in August, another death
  9. Poll: Have you been impacted by flooding in Alexandria?
  10. New Normal: ACPS fully reopens for first time since pandemic started
  11. Evolving COVID-19 decisions loom as Alexandria City Public Schools fully reopen next Tuesday

Have a safe weekend!

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