Eight years ago, a friend talked McLean's Tamberlain Connelly into signing up for a recreational class in Tae Kwon Do. The friend's enthusiasm quickly waned, and she never even made it to the first class. Connelly went alone, and stuck with it.
Earlier this month, Connelly, who went on to become the U.S. lightweight champion, won a bronze medal in the world championships in Seoul.
"Of course, you set your goal for the top," said Connelly, who is studying at the Logan College of Chiropractics in Chesterfield, Mo. "But just getting there (to the world championships) is an accomplishment, so I'm happy the way it worked out."
Connelly, 26, is a graduate of McLean High School and George Mason University. It took her four years before she decided to compete in Tae Kwon Do.
Connelly has found the martial art, at a competitive level, dominated her life. She says the world championships will probably remain as her last major competition because she wants to concentrate on her career.
"Tae Kwon Do has to come first when you are competing," she said. "You have to put all your energy into it, and it drains everything. You never feel like you are done with anything 100 percent, but since I've decided to go into the health field, I will be able to go into chiropractics and leave the competition behind."
Jake McInerney of O'Connell has been one of the area's premier high school placekickers for the past two years, but, in recent weeks, he has raised the level of his skill considerably. Much of the credit goes to a soccer coach.
Fred James, a former tailback at Washington-Lee who now is the junior varsity soccer coach at O'Connell, decided to lend some technical help after the 5-foot-9, 176-pound senior missed field goal attempts of 30 and 31 yards in an opening 7-6 victory over Loudoun County.
The following week, McInerney kicked a 50-yarder against Yorktown. Two weeks ago, he was successful on tries of 55, 27 and 37 yards in a 29-6 victory over Cardozo.
"Sometimes on the high school level, we tend to not pay as much attention as we should to kickers," said O'Connell Coach Jim Hayes. "But Freddie stops by every day before he goes to practice and works with Jake. He works on mechanics as much as confidence, and he has really turned Jake around."
W.T. Woodson faced a potentially disastrous situation when quarterback Brad Lawrence went down with a pinched nerve in his neck just before the season opener, and then contracted pneumonia.
Coach Kenny Poates wanted a senior to step in the emergency situation, but he found a new quarterback from a most unlikely place -- the defensive backfield.
Cornerback Dennis McLaughlin, who had occasionally played the position as a freshman, became the quarterback. For the opener against Lee, Poates tried a double tight-end offense to limit mistakes. Woodson won, 14-3.
The Cavaliers defeated then No. 1-ranked H.D. Woodson, 30-2. McLaughlin started in Friday's 14-6 loss to Mount Vernon, but Lawrence played most of the second half.
"For now, with the way we are going, I didn't want to change anything," said Poates. "But because of an injury in the defensive backfield, that meant Dennis would have to play both ways. Brad will get some work gradually, and will probably get the job back. But for me, a quarterback situation like ours has been a great problem to have."