Churchill ‘96 graduate Dhani Jones started on the University of Michigan’s national champion football team and two Super Bowl teams, including this year’s NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles. Hasn’t Jones cleared the bar for induction to Churchill’s Hall of Fame?
Ron LaFleur thought so. A parent of two Churchill students, LaFleur learned last year that Churchill had an athletic Hall of Fame. However, membership has remained frozen at 46 since the inaugural induction in 1996. “The whole event was supposed to take place every year,” said LaFleur.
JONES IS ONE OF 11 Churchill sports legends who will be inducted to the Hall of Fame in a gala ceremony at Bethesda Country Club on March 4. Among them are Alex Kim, a tennis professional who competed in three of the grand slam tournaments; professional soccer player Nino Marcantonio; and college soccer stars Lindsay Haywood and Marisa Padula.
Most of the inductees will attend the ceremony. “It’s the biggest event the booster club has ever undertaken,” said Carolyn Mattingly, co-president of Churchill’s boosters.
“What excites me the most about this event is that it’s an event where all the sports are all working together … and working toward one goal,” said Sheri Cissel, co-president of Churchill’s boosters club. “It’s kind of like a dream come true.”
PROCEEDS FROM the induction gala will fund restoration of Churchill’s athletic fields, beginning with the stadium field, which is shared by the varsity and junior varsity teams for football, boys soccer, girls soccer, boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse.
Midway through the fall sports season, Churchill’s stadium field was shredded past the point of no return. “A group of school parents came to the booster club and were concerned about the safety of the field,” said Mattingly. “All of the football, soccer and lacrosse parents banded together.”
Churchill’s boosters hope to raise $125,000 to renovate the stadium field and the other fields that surround it. The initial project will cost $50,000, and maintenance through the first year will cost an estimated $26,000, Mattingly said.
Whitman’s field at Jerome Marco Stadium serves as a model that Mattingly and LaFleur hope Churchill will replicate. Whitman resurfaced its field with Bermuda grass last summer.
“It’s like night and day when you go to Whitman’s field,” LaFleur said.
“We fell in love with that field — it’s a professional quality field,” said Mattingly.
Churchill’s field was already reseeded with rye grass, which grows better in cool weather. Boys and girls lacrosse teams will play on this surface through the spring. In early June, after the spring seasons end, the field will be reseeded with Bermuda grass.
CHURCHILL HONORED its 2004 state champion golf team and pom squad at halftime of a boys basketball game last Friday night. Their state championship banners went up last week alongside the 2002 and ‘03 girls basketball state championship banners.
For the first time in more than three years, Churchill flew its banners from state champions prior to the 21st century. This was another project Cissel and Mattingly undertook to recognize past Churchill champions. Churchill’s gym was replaced as the school underwent renovations from 2000 through ‘02, and all prior banners have since been in storage. Although he is a Seneca Valley High School graduate, Constantine Pregantis, president of Nite Lites, a local outdoor lighting company, agreed to raise the 50-plus banners honoring the school’s past state, county and regional champions.
Among those happy to see the banners re-raised is Jack Kemp, the Republican Party’s 1996 vice presidential candidate. Kemp is father of four Churchill graduates, two of whom are among the school’s first 43 Hall of Famers. "This will represent the past glory to help connect the future champions with the rich history from the past," Kemp said in a taped message to Churchill’s Hall of Fame committee members.
STEPHANIE CHASE BEAULIEU
After graduating from Churchill in 1996, Stephanie Chase enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Chase didn’t strike her friends as the military type.
“They were absolutely shocked,” she said last week. “They thought it was just a phase.”
The “phase” has lasted nine years and counting. Chase, one of 11 Churchill alums who will be inducted to the school’s athletic hall of fame next month, is now an captain in the U.S. Army’s 14th Engineering Battalion. Her military career has taken her from West Point to Germany to Baghdad.
Less than a week after Baghdad’s fall in 2003, Chase and the 14th Engineering Battalion were at Baghdad airport, restoring water, electricity and sewer lines to the airport. For a month and a half, Chase was unable to call her parents. By the end of April, though, the 14th had restored fully operational computer facilities to the airport, and Chase was able to communicate with her family every few days.
Whiled deployed in Baghdad, Chase’s unit undertook Project Task Force Neighborhood. U.S. soldiers would go to different areas around Baghdad, rope them off and restore buildings and playgrounds. At the time, the U.S. soldiers were welcomed by the Iraqis in the area. “It was such an amazing thing to see,” she said, recalling children who would go to the project sites and ask to help out with the restoration. “It’s worse now than it was when we left,” she said.
Late last year, Chase married John Beaulieu. The couple met while stationed in Germany. Cindy Kim, one of Chase Beaulieu’s tennis teammates, was in her wedding party.
Chase was a four-year varsity swimmer and three-year track runner at Churchill, but it was her feats in four years as a varsity tennis player that won her induction. She compiled a 51-1 individual record and helped lead Churchill to four straight county titles. The Bulldogs’ 1995 county title was the one she remembers most fondly. “We weren’t expected to win,” she said.
The Beaulieus are stationed in Washington State. “There’s a possibility that we’re going to go back,” she said. Chase Beaulieu will be unable to attend the induction ceremony next month, but feels honored to be an inductee. “It was great. I was so excited just to be nominated,” she said.