You might say Tiffany Matthews wears a lot of hats.
Matthews is a senior instructor at the Alexandria Fire Department’s academy, training the city’s freshest recruits how to run into burning buildings and save lives. In her off-duty hours, though, she’s the founding owner of the Washington Prodigy women’s pro-football team. In fact, she’s been involved in professional football just as long as she’s been with AFD — 19 years.
An Alexandria native, Matthews joined the U.S. Army after graduating in 1998 from T.C. Williams High School, where she played varsity basketball. Watching Sunday football was a special event for her family, she said, and her interest in the game started by watching her brother play on the George Washington Middle School football team. The team’s coach was impressed enough to make her his assistant.
“I’d be watching my brother playing and I was just observing to the point where I was calling out plays,” Matthews recalled. “The coach noticed and asked me if I wanted to hold his clipboard…. Once I had that clipboard, I was kind of motivated on the sideline.”
Matthews, now 43, was a U.S. Army private stationed in Germany when she started playing flag football. In 2004, after being discharged, she started working as an Alexandria firefighter. That same year she was also recruited as a running back for the D.C. Divas.
The season runs every year from April to June, In 2012, she broke away from the Divas to found the Washington Prodigy. She had just 14 athletes, including herself as a player/owner/head coach. Now the team is one of 16 teams in the Women’s National Football Conference (WNFC). She stopped playing in 2018, and the team now boasts 40 players in the six-game season, which runs from April to June. Home games are played at Anacostia High School in D.C., and as far away as Texas, Florida and Tennessee.
None of the players are paid, and Matthews says she wants the WNFC to have the same name recognition and popularity as the Women’s National Basketball Association.
“I think we deserve it,” she said. “The coaches plan and meet weekly, and the players come to practice two or three times a week.”
She also said she’s on-board with the WNFC incorporating flag football into its offerings.
“The league is going in a great direction,” Matthews said. “And I think they do a very good job of making sure we’re (team owners are) on the same page by bringing in large endorsements and sponsorships like Adidas, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.”
Matthews plans on retiring from the fire department in six years, after which she says she will focus on the team.
If asked, Matthews describes herself as a firefighter first, and a pro-sports team owner second.
“It depends on the environment,” she said “I’m a firefighter. That’s pretty much my response, unless I’m in a sporting environment and they already kind of know that I’m involved with footballers in some sort of fashion.”
Alexandria’s Noah Lyles was crowned world’s fastest man after taking home the gold medal in the 100 meters at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on Sunday.
The 26-year-old Lyles was emotional as he received his medal for running the race in 9.83 seconds, a personal best for the Olympic bronze medalist. Lyles also said that he’s been challenged since the Olympics, and that he had an empty feeling in the days since.
“They can doubt you ,call you crazy, and even make fun of you but as long as you believe in yourself that’s all that matters,” Lyles tweeted after his win.
Robert Griffin III, former quarterback for the Washington Redskins, tweeted that Lyles ran the race that “no one thought he could. But he believed he could win and THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERED. Now he is a WORLD CHAMPION in the 100m.”
Lyles, a graduate of T.C. Williams High School, will run the 200 meters on Wednesday in Budapest.
Last summer, Lyles broke the American record in that race with a personal best of 19.31 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson’s 200 meter record of 19.32 seconds, which was set at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
100m World Champion
They can doubt you ,call you crazy, and even make fun of you but as long as you believe in yourself that’s all that matters pic.twitter.com/Zz4RSA2qEN
— Noah Lyles, OLY (@LylesNoah) August 20, 2023
Noah Lyles just RAN DOWN THE FIELD running 9.83 to win WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP Gold in the Men’s 100m. pic.twitter.com/67guiJpJqa
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) August 20, 2023
An incredible moment for Noah Lyles at the 100m medal ceremony! ❤️ @LylesNoah
"It's been really hard since Tokyo. A lot of dreams coming true…so many times it's been empty by myself and now I have all these people and it feels like an actual moment that has actually happened." pic.twitter.com/F6C0YgTUEf
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) August 21, 2023
The 17-year-old male suspect facing murder charges in last year’s fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez was implicated by damning evidence police found on his phone, according to evidence presented Monday.
Monday’s bench trial will continue into today for the defense to present their case, and a speedy verdict on second degree murder and murder by mob charges is expected from Judge James C. Clark. The suspect faces between five-to-40 years in prison for the second degree murder charge and five-to-40 years for the murder by mob, or lynching, charge.
The stabbing occurred during a brawl between two rival gangs of Alexandria City High School teenagers on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 — a week before graduation. Mejia Hernandez was fatally stabbed in the heart, and an autopsy showed that he also had abrasions to his neck, chin, the back of his hands, abdomen and knees, according to the medical examiner who testified that the cause of death was a 7/8-inch stab wound to the chest.
Commonwealth’s Attorney’s David Lord and Meredith Burke said that Mejia, a high school senior due to graduate within days, was outnumbered and fighting defensively at the Bradlee Shopping Center. They published into evidence multiple videos of the fight taken from a Alexandria Police Department dashcam, security cameras and videos from phones recovered by police. One security video shows Mejia Hernandez arriving to the parking lot in his car, parking, and then joining a group of students near a bus stop outside the Bradlee Shopping Center McDonald’s.
Lord and Burke allege that the suspect deliberately acted with cruel and deliberate malice.
“The defendant joined the fray and did not stop until he drove a knife into the chest of Luis Mejia Hernandez,” Burke said. “Videos show the defendant intentionally plunged his knife in the chest of Luis Mejia Hernandez.”
The suspect’s attorney’s, Sean Sherlock and Sebastian Norton, say that their client was a scared 16-year-old acting defensively, and that there is no evidence he stabbed Mejia Hernandez. Both defense attorneys would not comment on why they favored a bench trial.
Sherlock and Norton said that the Commonwealth’s case is built on circumstantial evidence, and without a murder weapon, confession or witnesses. Instead, they say, prosecutors only have “blurry cell phone videos of a scared 16-year-old in the middle of a violent brawl,” Norton said.
During Monday’s trial, the suspect sat quietly with a surgical face mask under his chin, and wore black pants, black sneakers and a long sleeve white button-up shirt. Several rows into the courtroom was Osmin Mejia Romero, the victim’s father, who sat emotionless while listening to a Spanish translation of the proceeding through headphones. Mejia Romero briefly appeared on the stand to identify photos of his son before resuming his seat in the gallery.
Brawl between rival student gangs
Two Alexandria Police officers responded initially to a trespassing call at the McDonald’s, and upon arriving a crowd of students left the restaurant and the scene escalated in the parking lot. Police testified that they were overwhelmed by the students and did not try breaking up the melee by activating the sirens, lights or PA system in their cruisers.
There were a number of other students with weapons, including Mejia Hernandez, who was was found to have had a stiletto pocket knife with a three-inch blade in his pocket throughout the altercation. Another student was found with brass knuckles.
The brawl occurred at around 12:30 p.m. and lasted about a minute.
“One of the subjects threw a water bottle, and another threw a mango pineapple smoothie,” testified Officer Byron Rush. “After that the subjects began to start fighting.”
Both Rush and Officer Malcolm Cook were the only officers to witness the incident, and said that they didn’t see the stabbing. The officers broke up groups of juveniles fighting, and helped Mejia Hernandez when he collapsed. He died soon after and was identified at Inova Alexandria Hospital by his driver’s license and student identification.
Friends of the victim say that police did not do enough to prevent the incident. Alexandria City High School shifted to virtual instruction for the remainder of the school year after the incident, and Mejia was posthumously awarded a graduation diploma.
Both sides agree that the suspect allegedly found out about a planned fight between two factions of students in the Bradlee parking lot while he was in the Alexandria City High School cafeteria. The suspect also confirmed to investigators that he owned a knife, bought at a smoke shop, although initially told investigators that he didn’t use it.
During the interrogation, the suspect asked if he could text his girlfriend, and police agreed and observed the code he used to unlock his phone. Police then got into the phone and found multiple videos of the brawl that they’d not seen before. The video was taken from a phone, and prosecutors say shows the moment when the stabbing occurred.
“He acknowledged he was the person in the video with the knife in his hand,” testified Detective Michael Wheylan. “He admitted to doing it , but advised it was in self defense… He didn’t deny that he didn’t do it.”
Wheylan conducted the interrogation, and was convinced of the suspect’s guilt when the suspect allegedly admitted to owning a knife, and acting in self defense. Wheylan also said that the suspect told him that he lost the knife after the incident.
Norton and Sherlock were unsuccessful in convincing Clark to strike the murder in the second degree and murder by mob charges. They said there was no evidence their client initiated the fight, and that in the photo allegedly showing him stabbing Mejia Hernandez, they claim that Mejia Hernandez was positioned to attack him.
“I can’t exclude the notion that (the suspect) was part of the mob,” Clark said.
Norton said that the blow was struck in a “split second” in the heat of a brawl, and that his client believed MS-13 gang members were present and that he was scared. He also said there was no evidence that the suspect and victim knew each other, or that there was pre-planning before the incident.
Lord, however, said that Mejia Hernandez was “constantly on his heels,” and that the suspect was a member of a mob who “inserted himself into the situation with the knife and ultimately inflicted the lethal blow.”
Noah Lyles, the world champion sprinter and Olympic bronze medalist can add another trophy to his collection, as he and his speedster brother Josephus Lyles have been chosen for induction into the 2022 ACPS Athletic Hall of Fame.
“Noah Lyles is a world record holder, world champion, bronze medal winner and a great ambassador for our city,” Aly Khan Johnson, chair of the ACPS Athletic Hall of Fame Advisory Committee Meeting, told the School Board last Thursday night (May 19).
The impressive list of 26 inductees also includes Alexandria’s Shirley Marshall-Lee, the world’s first African American female scuba diver; educator Naomi L. Brooks, who played basketball at Parker-Gray High School and has a school named after her; and Fred Borchelt, a 1972 T.C. Williams High School grad who won the silver medal in the 1984 Olympics.
“We are blessed in this community to have wonderful athletes that come through our school system,” said Alexandria School Board Vice Chair Jacinta Greene. “So many of which that we have thousands of (ACPS Athletic Hall Of Fame) applications that come in each year.”
There are 26 inductees this year — more than usual due to a backlog of nominees. The Hall of Fame started in 2014, and previous winners include members of the 1971 T.C. Williams High School varsity football team, which gained worldwide recognition in the 2000 movie Remember The Titans.
The induction ceremony will be held in the Alexandria City High School auditorium at 2 p.m. on October 8.
The 2022 ACPS Athletic Hall of Fame
- 1945 George Washington High School Boys Basketball Team — State champions
- 1977 T.C. Williams High School Boys Basketballs Team — State champions
- DeArcey “Dee” Campbell, George Washington High School Class of 1944, Crew Coach 1975-2005
- Robert Garda, George Washington High School Class of 1957 — Football, Basketball, Track
- Joe Hensley, George Washington High School Class of 1944 — Basketball
- Bobby Jones, George Washington High School Class of 1949 — Track
- Naomi Lewis-Brooks, Parker-Gray High School Class of 1951 — Basketball
- Shirley Marshall-Lee, Parker-Gray High School Class of 1956 — Scuba Diving
- Doug Yates, George Washington High School Class of 1955 — Basketball, Track
- Fred Borchelt, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1972 — Crew
- Yolanda Brown, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1994 — Track/Field
- Lesa Diggs-Moore, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1981 — Track
- Sherri Funn, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1978 — Track
- John Johnson, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1973 — Track/ Field
- Rodney Johnson, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1997 — Football, Track/Field, Track Coach
- Missy Anne Kilkpatrick, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1991 — Track
- Kathy James Lorton, T.C. Williams High School Class of 2000 — Cheerleading
- Josephus Lyles, T.C. Williams High School Class of 2016 — Track/ Field
- Noah Lyles, T.C. Williams High School Class of 2016 — Track/ Field
- Marie McKeon Zack, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1983 — Soccer/Field Hockey
- Barry Mountain, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1979 — Track/Field
- Stephanie O’Toole Whalen, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1990 — Field Hockey, Basketball, Softball
- Lydell Scott, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1987 — Football
- Carl Turner, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1974 — Football, Basketball
- Ezra Whorley, T.C. Williams High School Class of 1992 — Track/Field, Football
- Eryk Williamson, T.C. Williams High School Class of 2015 — Soccer
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.”
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) September 8, 2021
— Alexandria City Titans XC/Track & Field Boosters (@ACTitansTrack) September 8, 2021
Photos via Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr.
With serious and unresolved health-related decisions looming, Alexandria City Public Schools is set to reopen its doors to full-time instruction on Tuesday, August 24.
“I’m looking forward to putting the stressful 18 months behind us,” an ACPS parent told ALXnow. “It’s time to move ahead and get these kids back in school. I know things will look different and we will have some rough patches, but we owe it to the kids to get them back.”
Just days before reopening, the School Board will consider a vaccine mandate for all ACPS employees at its meeting tonight. The school system has been criticized by parents for waiting too long to tackle the vaccine issue, echoing some of the widespread frustration that the school system didn’t open quickly enough last year.
“Together, Alexandria City Public School students, teachers, staff, and families have met the challenges of the past school year during a dual pandemic of COVID-19 and systemic racism,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. wrote to parents. “We are excited to make the most of our opportunity for a new beginning as we enjoy the energy and enthusiasm that comes with having our students back for five days a week of in-person learning.”
ACPS reopened to five days a week just last month — for summer school. Also last month, Alexandria City High School principal Peter Balas told ALXnow that his school — the largest high school in Virginia — was ready to fully reopen. Next Tuesday will also mark first school year since it changed its name from T.C. Williams High School.
“ACPS will continue to adjust measures based on the latest health guidance and best practices and update the chart accordingly as changes occur,” the school system wrote in its 2021-2022 Health and Safety Guidance.
With COVID numbers on the rise, the School Board recently decided that all 15,000+ students and staff wear protective face coverings in school. The Virginia Department of Health says unvaccinated residents account for a vast majority of new COVID cases.
Face masks are required to be worn inside school buses and classrooms, except when eating and exercising. Masks are not required outdoors.
Students and staff are also required to keep six feet of social distance and quarantine for two weeks if they are unvaccinated and have been in close contact with anyone who has contracted COVID-19. Vaccinated students and staff who are not symptomatic do not have to quarantine.
“There will be daily online health screenings and temperature screenings in school entrances and procedures to limit the number of visitors in school facilities,” noted ACPS. “If students are closely interacting during recess or by the nature of a sports activity, then the recommendation would be to wear masks. Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised.”
ACPS is still teaching virtually, but the deadline to enroll in Virtual Virginia expired last month.
According to ACPS, this is what to expect when school resumes:
- 5 days per week in school
- Normal classroom capacity to accommodate five days a week, in-person learning
- Hot breakfasts and lunches will be available every day
- Bus routes and schedules will return to normal
- All activities and athletics will be offered in-person
- All special education services will be offered in-person
- English for Speakers of Other Languages will be offered in-person
- Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors program offerings at Alexandria City High School will be offered in-person
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math will be offered in-person
Scott Shaw named Chamber’s 2021 Business Leader of the Year — “For the last six years, he has served as a partner of Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP). ARP operates nine restaurants including The Majestic and Theismann’s Restaurant… Outside of the restaurant industry, Shaw established Founders Hall and co-founded ALX Community. His community involvement includes serving as Chair of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership. In this position… In 2017, Shaw founded the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving Alexandria’s rich maritime history through educational programs and entertainment.” [Zebra]
Rep. Beyer says he’s working on securing stormwater management funding for Alexandria — “I’m also working to secure more federal funding for storm and sewer projects in ALX in upcoming infrastructure legislation.” [Twitter]
Alexandria accountant pleads guilty to tax fraud — “An accountant from Alexandria pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in filing false tax returns that led to over $250,000 in federal tax loss.” [Patch]
Recent T.C. Williams High School graduate dies at 18 — “Tommy Lacey was a towering figure. At 6 feet 5 inches tall, he was a gentle giant with a passion for sports and hanging out with friends at Al’s Steakhouse in Del Ray. A standout lacrosse player, the 2021 graduate of T.C. Williams High School was preparing to attend James Madison University in the fall when he died unexpectedly on Aug. 4.” [Gazette]
Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy. High 91F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph… Scattered thunderstorms during the evening becoming more widespread overnight. Low 72F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]
New job: Crew member at Trader Joe’s — “If you have a passion for people and a fervor for food, we’d love to meet you. We can teach you the rest.” [Indeed]
Next week, Lyles’ alma mater — now called Alexandria City High School — will host a viewing party for the Olympic field day.
Proud to host a watch party for @LylesNoah at ACHS for his debut in Tokyo! Come support Noah and the Lyles Brothers Sports Foundation! Tixx are limited and required – see flyer for details! @sunshine182225 @josephus_lyles @TheCityAD @ACPSk12 @DrHutchings pic.twitter.com/t65yiJwVXF
— Peter Balas (@PrincipalTitan) July 28, 2021
The party will run from 8-10:30 p.m. at Alexandria City High School (3330 King Street). There will also be door prizes and raffles to be won.
Attendance is limited and tickets are required. Guests will be required to wear face masks. The event is free but a voluntary donation to the Lyles Foundation non-profit is encouraged.
Lyles isn’t the only Alexandrian competing in the Olympics. Local boxer Troy Isley also won his first boxing match at the Olympics earlier this week. Isley’s second match is tomorrow (Thursday).
— Jim McGrath (@jfmcgrath) July 28, 2021
What an unexpectedly busy summer week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.
Our top story was on an Alexandria woman who claims she was roofied at a restaurant on the waterfront on the evening of July 9. A police report has been filed, and no charges have been made.
This week we sat down with acting Police Chief Don Hayes, who said that he’s thrown his hat in the ring with City Manager Mark Jinks to keep the top job. Hayes, a 40-year veteran of the Alexandria Police Department took over after the sudden departure of Chief Michael Brown last month, and will have to contend against candidates in a national search.
The Tokyo Olympics also start this week, and the games will include three T.C. Williams High School graduates — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley. In fact, Lyles just had a comic book biography published in the Washington Post. If you’re a fan of the Olympic games, check out this list of local restaurants celebrating with special events and meals.
- Pot enthusiasts quiet in early days of legalization in Alexandria
- Alexandria sees 90 COVID cases in July, another death
- Local historians profile former slave in Alexandria who struggled to rescue his family
- Alexandria man caught with gun at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport checkpoint
- New Potomac Yard luxury condo community sells 30% of properties before construction starts
- Testing for Alexandria’s controversial stream restoration work starts next week
- Two years after massive flooding, city moves forward with Holmes Run trail restoration
- Del Ray licensed family counselor completely booked since launching in May
- Alexandria businesses advised to sharpen e-commerce as consumer patterns evolve
- Alexandria swimming pools operating with reduced hours, residents signing waitlists with capacity overload
- Without annual music festival, Del Ray is celebrating with a bar crawl
- Del Ray affordable housing completes long-awaited overhaul
- Woman claims she was roofied at Old Town restaurant
- Residents protest against conditions at West End apartment complex
- Developers eye Beauregard redevelopment with West End upgrades on the horizon
- Former chef at ‘The Alexandrian’ opening new restaurant in Arlandria on Monday
- No injuries after shots fired in Braddock area on Wednesday
- DASH takes lessons from D.C., Baltimore and Oregon in eliminating bus fares
- ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
- After last month’s Democratic primary, Republican Darryl Nirenberg tops campaign donation leaderboard
- New city health improvement plan aims to fix inequities
- Poll: Have you been to the Winkler Botanical Preserve?
- Lee-Fendall House to throw speakeasy party to finance building repairs
Have a safe weekend!
A special insert to the Washington Post print edition today features a comic book adaptation of Alexandria track star Noah Lyles’ life.
The twenty-page comic book is accompanied by a special section in the print edition commemorating the Tokyo Olympics, with coverage on the athletes, game schedules and more.
“In today’s paper, readers will also be able to find a twenty-page comic book insert entitled, ‘Chasing Gold,'” Washington Post Communications Manager Naseem Amini said in a press release, “which tells the story of track star Noah Lyles who is a favorite for the medals podium, having posted the year’s fastest 200-meter time at the U.S. Olympic trials.”
Lyles, a former T.C. Williams High School student, won the 200 meter race in the June Olympic Trials and is representing the United States at the Tokyo Olympics.
The comic book was written by Washington Post sports reporters Rick Maese and Adam Kilgore, art directed by Washington Post designer Joe Moore and illustrated by comic book artist Andy Belanger.
In today’s paper, readers will also be able to find a twenty-page comic book insert, “Chasing Gold,” which tells the story of track star Noah Lyles who is a favorite for the medals podium, having posted the year’s fastest 200-meter time at the U.S. Olympic trials. pic.twitter.com/yyfbTPeTCk
— Washington Post PR (@WashPostPR) July 23, 2021
— Jean (@DigiDaunted) July 23, 2021