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Pitting Sister Against Sister

Marilyn Gregorowicz, left, a senior at Hayfield High in Fairfax, is on second as her sister, Paulina, a South County Secondary sophomore, readies a pitch. They are among several siblings and friends made rivals by a school boundary change.
Marilyn Gregorowicz, left, a senior at Hayfield High in Fairfax, is on second as her sister, Paulina, a South County Secondary sophomore, readies a pitch. They are among several siblings and friends made rivals by a school boundary change. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

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By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 26, 2006

Teenage sisters Eva and Erica Hollenberg share friends and clothes and watch "American Idol" together. But tomorrow, it's every woman for herself.

For the first time, the Fairfax County sisters will face each other as rivals on a high school soccer field. They always assumed they'd be teammates, cheering each other on, celebrating victories, commiserating over bad calls and bad plays.

But the opening of a new high school in their neighborhood has planted the sisters on opposing teams at different schools. And they aren't the only one-time allies to compete. When Hayfield Secondary School takes on South County Secondary School, it's player against former teammate, friend against friend and even -- in the case of one coach and player -- father against daughter. The result: fierce familial rivalry.

"If you're the Yankees, you hate the Red Sox. Hayfield is our Red Sox," explained Brandon Cruz, 15, a sophomore at South County.

So, who's going to win?

"We are," Erica, 15, a South County Lady Stallion, said one recent evening as she and Eva sat at the family's kitchen table. "I hate losing."

"We are," countered Eva, 18, a Hayfield Hawk. "I can't lose. This is the one time in my life it is not acceptable."

"If we're lucky, you'll tie," said their mother, Kelly Akers, sounding slightly exasperated. She's trying to figure out how to toast a victory and offer a shoulder to cry on at the same time. Even deciding which set of bleachers to sit on is complicated. (Akers and her husband will split up or switch sides at halftime.)

Boundary changes are a virtual certainty of suburban life, especially in Washington's fastest-growing areas. In Loudoun County alone, four high schools have opened since 2002, and another is scheduled for a 2008 start. Montgomery County's Clarksburg High School will open in August. Even in Fairfax, where school population growth has slowed, two high schools have opened since 2000.

But drawing new lines is anything but easy. Neighborhoods wage fierce battles over whose children will attend which school. Parents and students lobby school boards and debate the effects of new boundaries on community, commuting distance and long-standing friendships.

Once attendance lines are mapped, it's up to students to adjust to a new alma mater or a familiar one that has lost familiar faces.

The connection between Hayfield, in the Alexandria section of the county, and South County, built in Lorton on the site of the old D.C. prison, is particularly close because about 80 percent of South County students live within the old Hayfield attendance area. Some siblings, such as Eva, a senior, and Erica, a freshman, were split up this year because seniors stayed at Hayfield to finish out high school with friends. The same is true for softball players Marilyn Gregorowicz, a senior at Hayfield, and her younger sister Paulina, a sophomore at South County.


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