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A Madison High Celebration for the Ages

Vienna school holds spectacular 50th year anniversary on homecoming weekend.

When Charlie Ostlund, the former Madison High School director of student activities (DSA), awoke last Saturday morning, he was disappointed to see that the weather did not look so promising. It was overcast with a threat of rain. He, like so many other Madison faithful, did not want poor weather to tarnish that day’s special festivities taking place at the Vienna school.

It turned out Ostlund had nothing to worry about. The sun ultimately broke out later that day and Madison’s 50th Anniversary/Homecoming celebration went off splendidly. Even the Madison football team’s 21-14 afternoon loss to South Lakes barely made a ripple on the disappointment scale.

This day at Madison was about seeing old friends, recalling old high school memories and enjoying food, football and the grand halftime ceremonies.

“It’s phenomenal, a great event,” said Ostlund, a 1969 Madison graduate and the school’s DSA from 1988 through 1998. “In a school community like Madison you can pull something like this off. I’ve already run into 20 former classmates I know.”

The extraordinary anniversary weekend included a golf tournament on Friday at Westfield Golf Course, a parade that same afternoon, a Taste of The Town event at the baseball field on Saturday and a 50th Anniversary Gala event that night at the Tysons Corner Marriott.

Other weekend highlights included a tour of the renovated Madison campus and school on Friday evening with special performances by the school’s marching band, choir groups and orchestra and, of course, all of the showcase anniversary and homecoming happenings on game day.

Saturday, especially, was a day Madison alumni, current students and all others associated with the schools past and present will always cherish.

“It’s tremendous,” said ’79 graduate and current Madison Principal Mark Merrell. “Every time I turn around I see someone I either taught or went to school with or coached.”

Merrell was a teacher and the boys’ basketball coach before becoming the school principal in 2001.

“The town [of Vienna] has rolled over in a sense where you’re starting to see second and third generation [Madison] students from parents our ages,” he said. “They bring with them some tradition and we’re getting this influx of young kids.”

Madison, like Vienna, has seen positive growth in recent years. Ten years ago, Madison’s student enrollment was 1,400. Now, it’s 1,950 grades nine through 12.

<b>IN THE HOURS</b> leading up to the football game, former and current classmates and others gathered and socialized at the Taste of the Town area of the campus on the ball field. There, folks caught up, remembered old times and enjoyed some awesome food from a variety of the town’s restaurateurs. Familiar faces from the past were everywhere. Old friends hugged, introduced their family members and laughed and enjoyed themselves.

By game time, football players from the Class of 1983, who were part of the great Warhawks’ team that reached the Northern Region championship game, had gathered on the home team’s sideline. There, near the corner of the end zone, they watched the action and reminisced about plays and games from their season to remember 26 years ago. Those former players, now middle-aged men, included quarterback Tim Hecht, running back Doc Basil and other key members of that team such as Jim McNamara, Patrick Wernig and Lenny Schultz, a current special education teacher at the school.

McNamara, a former star baseball player at Madison, went on to enjoy a successful big league career with the San Francisco Giants.

“It’s wonderful,” said Schultz, the Madison JV football team’s head coach and an assistant wrestling coach during the winter. “It’s a great turnout. I’m with guys I hung out with 25 years ago.”

Chuck Sell, the former longtime Madison football coach who was at the helm of the ’83 team, was also on-hand. He was like a celebrity, shaking hands and hugging former students and players and enjoying a special time of reflecting with the ’83 football bunch.

<b>DURING HALFTIME</b> of the football game, numerous former Madison homecoming queens were introduced to the large, enthusiastic homecoming crowd. Former principals, coaches and athletic directors were recognized. And, of course, there was the naming of the new homecoming king and queen. The fact that Madison was losing the football game, 14-0, to the guests from Reston hardly mattered. The day was about Madison’s proud history and present success.

The public address announcer acknowledged the hard work of Madison director of student activities John Lingenfelter who, with lots of help, coordinated and oversaw the weekend spectacle.

“I would like to have everybody give Mr. Lingenfelter applause for putting this whole thing together,” said the upbeat public address announcer to the crowd at halftime. “He doesn’t like to accept acknowledgement, but this one’s for you `Link.’”

Madison, trailing 14-0, nearly came back to defeat the Seahawks in the second half. In the end, South Lakes held on for the Liberty District win. The defeat hardly tarnished the brilliance of the day for Madison Warhawk fans.

There was an undeterred feeling that while Madison’s past has been outstanding, the future looks just as bright.

“We say `Tradition never graduates,’ and that is true,” said Madison baseball coach Mark `Pudge’ Gjormand, who grew up in Vienna. “We’re still growing [as a school]. I’m 42 and grew up right down the street. It feels like the school’s been here forever. This is just a special day. This is Vienna.”