Seven members of Washington-Lee High's inaugural boys varsity eight crew team met at the Potomac Boat Club in Georgetown yesterday afternoon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the team's inception. In 1949, the Arlington school launched its first boat into competition with eight novice rowers and went on to win the National Scholastic Rowing Championship.
The group became legend to their successors, 200 of whom gathered this weekend to raise funds for W-L's current program and to reminisce about their competing days.
"We get together once a year to generate money for the [current] racing eights," said Paul Yager, a '49 rower and former W-L coach. "[Boats] cost between $16,000 and $17,000 and that's excluding oars."
The winning tradition began with late founder and coach Charlie Butt, who led the team from 1949 to 1991. W-L has won 31 national titles, 20 NOVA Championship regattas and twice won the top high school prize, the Princess Elizabeth Cup, at the prestigious Royal Henley Regatta in England.
Making a Difference
Lee volleyball coach Cameron Meyer said what his team discovered at a Northwest D.C. women and children's shelter last weekend could not be found on any court.
The girls put together a team drive that collected $500 worth of toys and toiletries for Hannah House, a transitional shelter for single mothers and their children. Then the players spent the day painting and moving furniture at the shelter.
Meyer said this type of experience unifies the team on a personal level. His players got the message.
"We just wanted to see if we could make a difference in somebody's life," said Alexandra Haase, a junior outside hitter, who was one of the 10 Lee players who volunteered. "And as a team we did make a difference."
This kind of mentality, said Hannah House Executive Director Lisa Tilney, made the girls' day productive.
"They brought a lot of energy to the shelter and were very helpful," Tilney said. "As soon as they got here, they were very willing to do anything we told them. And, they did a good job."
Meyer said his team will participate in a walk for the homeless in November, and some of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Hannah House.
Special correspondent Jon Gallo contributed to this report.