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Heritage High draws recognition for its football field

By Toni L. Sandys
Washington Post Staff Photographer
Monday, October 18, 2010; 1:37 AM

One day a week, Kate Cassidy, the Heritage High assistant athletic director, doesn't have to worry about dressing nice for school. By the end of her 10-hour day, she will be sweaty and covered in paint anyhow. "It all comes off in the shower," Cassidy jokes.

Once a week, Cassidy is joined by Athletic Director Ron Petrella and Greg Mason, the athletic department custodian, to prepare the field for the school's Friday night game. Last Wednesday, Petrella was at the school mowing before the first bell even rang. While Petrella cut the grass, Cassidy and Mason prepared the paint and began to line the field. First come the yard markers, sidelines and coaches lines. "Then there are the coach's box, the restraining line, and the hashmarks," Petrella said, sighing. "I mean there are all kinds of lines and marks." It takes about two hours just to get that far.

But then the athletic department at Heritage takes it one step further. Maybe even 10. Each week, the trio add more and more paint to the field. What starts out as a simply lined field with no adornments, turns into a flash of red, black and white from Senior Night to end the season. As fans enter the stadium this week, they will walk past a new sign hanging on the fence. Pioneer Paint has declared the field at Heritage one of their 2009 Fields of Excellence. Of the 57 schools selected, Heritage is the only one from Virginia. And one of a select number to appear in the company's calendar.

Which helps explain why Petrella and Cassidy leave the office for a day, letting the voice mail and e-mail pile up, but only partially. While they work on the field each week, the physical education classes often walk the track. The kids watch and see if they can figure out what the final design might be. As they work, even Petrella and Cassidy don't know what the design will be. "First, we start talking about the numbers. We think red, then black, now maybe we'll outline them. It's really a work in progress," Cassidy said.

One that takes two days to finish for the homecoming game. By game time, the end zone will have been striped and a large tri-colored H will be in the center of the field. "The players really appreciate it," Cassidy said. "They know it takes a lot of time, but they get really excited for it.

"If they didn't, it probably wouldn't be as worthwhile."

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