The most common sports perception of the Annandale-Thomas Jefferson High School merger was that athletically rich Annandale was going to get richer and poor Jefferson was going to go broke.
While its true Annandale has profited from the change, Jefferson's sports program, bolstered with increased enrollment, could be stronger than before.
Jefferson, which is in the final year of a four-year conversion process to a science and technology curriculum, will field sports programs similar to the other 25 Northern Region high schools, although the Colonials will not have a senior class yet.
In every sport but football Jefferson will compete with the same teams that it has for many of its 23 years. In football the Colonials, who have had just two winning seasons intheir history, elected to play a non-AAA school schedule this season before returning to Northern Region football action.
"We knew we would have to use sophomores and juniors to make up our varsity and didn't want to get kids beat up," said Olan Faulk, who is both football coach and assistant director of student activities.
This season's football squad at Jefferson is no smaller in numbers than in previous years. In fact, the Colonials have 62 players from the sophomore and junior classes, which is more than a number of Northern Region schools varsity and junior varsity squads combined.
"The numbers have been tremendous," Faulk said. "We stress academics here, but the kids are not any different than those at the other schools. They want all the same things that the average high school kid has. They just are a little more talented academically. Winning is not critical, but it's important to be competitive."
Faulk reports almost 40 participants in cross country, close to 30 in the girls tennis program and about 40 in field hockey. While Faulk says that the Colonials may "take some lumps," this year, he also believes the school should rebound in the future.
Jefferson's enrollment, which had consistently declined until reaching 1,240 in the 1983-84 school year, will be in the 1,600-1,700 range once all four classes are in school next year.
The increased enrollment does not mean that Jefferson will be better in various sports. But coaches acknowledge that a bigger pool of athletes to chose from often means more team depth and more chances to find superior athletes.
Despite the high numbers in participants and enrollment, there are several drawbacks in the high-tech school's attempt to participate in sports.
Jefferson students come from all over the Northern Virginia area, which includes Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. Because the student-athletes are scattered all over Northern Virginia, getting players to games and practices is a tough task.
"Travel time is a tremendous adjustment," Faulk admits. "But the kids and the parents already have made the commitment."
Because there is a special commitment to academics, students are in school eight periods a day as opposed to six a day for the rest of the schools. Consequently the Colonial students do not get to practice until almost one and a half hours later than their area counterparts.
"We know that sports takes a back seat to academics here, but our job is to provide kids with the opportunity to participate in sports," Faulk said.