Fifth in a series.
The South Riding community in Loudoun County is getting its own high school and with it, its own identity.
Freedom High School will open this fall, and its athletic teams will wear black and gold, with the Eagles mascot emblazoned on uniforms and equipment.
Only 32 miles away, in Woodbridge, another Freedom High will be entering its second year. Its mascot is also the Eagles, and the uniforms are black and gold.
"We were all aware of our neighboring school [in Woodbridge] when we let the students vote on the colors and the mascot," Athletic Director Rusty Lowery said. "And the vote was close. But if the kids wanted to be the Freedom Eagles and be black and gold, then that's what we wanted for them. It was that simple."
Because of the similarity, both schools will have the distinction of being directly associated -- in print as well as in Virginia High School League circles -- with their city. Meet Freedom of South Riding and Freedom of Woodbridge.
"I actually think the people in the community will like that," said Steve Norman, who will coach the Eagles volleyball team after assisting Jill Raschiatore at Stone Bridge and Park View the past nine years. "We haven't even opened yet, and already you can see how proud the community is to be involved."
Norman said Freedom's prospective athletes are participating in summer programs and overwhelming the school's newly hired coaches with their enthusiasm.
"I walk into a meeting room or go to an open gym and every time I'm seeing 10 or 20 new faces, all full of that young energy," Norman said. "People who, in two or three years, you know will be one of the foundations of your program. And here you are meeting them for the first time. You don't know how it will play out; you just know that it will. There's a real excitement in that."
Like Briar Woods, which is also set to open in Ashburn this fall with a similar enrollment of just over 500 students, Freedom will play a varsity AA Dulles District schedule its inaugural season in every sport except football. The Eagles football team will play a junior varsity schedule this fall, move to an independent varsity schedule in 2006 and then join the Dulles District in 2007.
Lowery, who worked as an assistant athletic director at Loudoun County, said he has three varsity coaching positions left to fill: boys' soccer and boys' and girls' track.
"It's such an amazing challenge to be in a new building with an opportunity to build a program like this from the ground up," Lowery said.
"The number one thing we were looking for in our coaches was people who would work to build a program, not just a team, from the top down and take ownership of all three programs; a coach who would make sure all three levels -- freshman, JV and varsity -- were doing what the varsity team is doing so we can have a build-and-replace program and just fill in our spots every year. That ultimately is the goal."