Six remarkable stories of athletes juggling high school sports and prom

May 31, 2013

Sometimes the adventure to get to prom can be even more memorable than the prom itself. Here’s a more detailed look at a few athletes going above and beyond, as mentioned in our prom story:

“I don’t think I could have done it without the RV.”

(Courtesy of Casey Dowling)
“It was crazy riding back home, my dad frantically driving in heavy traffic in the city, mom poking me in the eye with eyeliner and mascara,” said Casey Dowling, above. (Courtesy of Casey Dowling)

Wootton’s Casey Dowling had the state track meet in Baltimore, including a late relay, on the same day as her prom that evening in Silver Spring.

“I didn’t know how I was going to get back, wearing my uniform, sweaty and gross, into a dress and prom-ready,” Dowling said.

Her father, Glenn, had an idea: He would drive the family’s 2011 Thor Class A motorhome to the meet at Morgan State. Casey could grab a quick shower, and her mother, Kelly, could help her get ready on the drive to the prom venue.

Dowling ran the first leg of the 800-meter relay and after handing off her baton trotted off the track, across the stadium and up the stairs, glancing over the railing at the top to watch the end of the race. She beelined to the RV.

“It was crazy riding back home, my dad frantically driving in heavy traffic in the city, mom poking me in the eye with eyeliner and mascara, the RV tilting back and forth in the pouring rain,” Dowling said. “[Date Will Severynse and I] were texting every five seconds: ‘Are you almost here? Are you almost here?’ He was waiting on the curb with his mom ready to take pictures. I don’t think I could have done it without the RV.”

Paul VI coach delivers a limo bus


Paul VI Coach Billy Emerson arranged a limo bus for his players and dates to ride from the WCAC championship to prom. (Courtesy of Jon Bitto)

For the Paul VI baseball team last year, transportation was the incentive. On the day of prom, the Panthers had the first game in the three-game Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship series with McNamara.

Billy Emerson, the coach at Paul VI at the time, had told his 16 seniors that if they would promise him both the WCAC and state independent school titles, he would get them and their dates a limo bus from the first WCAC championship series game, at the University of Maryland, to prom.

The Panthers lost the first game, went to prom, then won the next two WCAC games in comeback fashion. They also snagged the state title.

“That was one of the best investments I ever made as a coach,” said Emerson, who had sponsors help with the $1,000 bus fee.

Warhawks swoop into prom with dramatic entrance

Madison baseball Coach Mark Gjormand used the dance as incentive in 2002 when his team was unbeaten and playing the state
championship south of Richmond on the same night as prom. Gjormand told the Warhawks in his pregame speech that girls dig guys in uniform and that if they won the title they would drive directly to the dance and make their entrance.

The Warhawks beat J.R. Tucker on a double by No. 9 hitter Joe Lewin in the bottom of the seventh inning to cap a 29-0 season and their first state title in 31 years. When they arrived at the prom venue, there were two flights of stairs that led to
the ballroom.

The players, still in uniform, split off into two groups and descended the stairs to “We Are the Champions.”

“The place went crazy,” Gjormand said. “Nobody really choreographed it. It just worked out that way.”

Oakton coach dresses the part


(Courtesy of Alisa Byers)

Oakton track Coach Alisa Byers has tried to incorporate prom ruffles and flourishes into her team’s day of competition when the two overlap. She even wore a prom dress to the Virginia AAA Concorde District meet in 2010, slipping the pink garment over her clothes at the front of the bus on her way to the meet.

The following year she took up a collection so the seniors could ride to the district meet in a Hummer stocked with sparking cider and Gatorade, the girls wearing plastic flower corsages on their wrists.

“I wanted them to be able to have fun and be relaxed and not think they’re missing out on the big things,” Byers said. “We could finish up districts and make it to prom. It is unfortunate that kids would have to make a decision, but the reality is life is about choices. In that same respect, schools can do a better job trying to affect the least kids possible.”

Oakton’s prom this year was April 26, the earliest of any Fairfax County school.

Madison runner finds a stand-in


(Courtesy of Veronica Day)

Drew Bathe had two prom dates in 2007. Madison track athlete Veronica Day and … . a 4-foot cutout of Madison track athlete Veronica Day.

The 5-foot-6 real one had to be 170 miles away in Newport News for the state track meet.

One of her events was the final one, the 1,600-meter relay, which would go off in the late afternoon. Day would not be back in time to pose for pre-prom photos with her date and friends. So she constructed a replica of herself, using foam cardboard,
a glued-on picture of her face (with dangling earrings), and a pink prom dress with purple flowers made from spare fabric she found in the family arts and crafts room. Voila. Instant Veronica, a diminutive doppelganger that could stand in for her for prom photos.

A friend recently remarked to Day about her prom dress. But the one the friend recalled was not what Day had worn, white with a pink flower and sweetheart neckline, the one that she had picked out at Tysons Corner six months prior. The one the friend
recalled was the pink and purple handmade version.

“None of my friends actually remember what my real prom dress looked like,” Day said. “All they remember is the one for the cutout.”

A well-dressed fan for Stone Bridge lacrosse

(Courtesy of Pat Sommer)
(Courtesy of Pat Sommer)

Stone Bridge senior lacrosse player Pat Sommer this spring had a Liberty District quarterfinal against Jefferson on the same night that he was to attend the prom at Briar Woods, his girlfriend’s school.

He would have to miss dinner and pictures. So his date, Nathalie Moore, showed up at the field toward the end of his game that night, dressed for the dance.

This is not the kind of thing that goes unremarked upon on a boys’ lacrosse sideline.

“At one point, nobody was watching the game,” Sommer said. “Everybody was turned around looking for a few seconds.”

Then the comments started.

“Hey, Pat, is that your girlfriend up in the stands with that orange dress?” a Stone Bridge assistant coach asked him.

“Yes it is,” Sommer said. “But it’s not orange. It’s coral.”

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Preston Williams | May 31, 2013