ALEXANDRIA, VA -Tuesday, May 30, was an all-star night at the Alexandria Westin Hotel in Carlyle as 275 dignitaries, city officials, leaders, parents, coaches, and high school honorees celebrated top high school sports talent. The awards show recognized 36 winners from four high schools in Alexandria, three of them private. Two ten-year-old children from the city’s Department of Recreation were also feted. Thousands of athletes compete in a wide range of sports to snare a coveted win each year.
Jerry Whitmire is the 2023 president and presided over the annual awards banquet, now in its 66th year. He said he got involved when his daughter won volleyball Athlete of the Year multiple times. “That sparked my interest,” Whitmire said in an interview during the cocktail hour. “It is a worthy cause. We are here to represent, support, and recognize the 15,000 kids between kindergarten and high school. We do everything we possibly can to support them in every way. “
As Whitmore looked around him, the hallway filling with guests, drinks in hand, he felt joy and relief. “It is fantastic that it always comes together. I was up at 4:00 this morning to get the seating charts right. It’s amazing how you can spend nine hours on a seating chart and then have to change it again.”
The Zebra spoke with with Marion Moon between a run-through of the evening’s program and greeting guests. Moon is the immediate past president of the sports organization. She has been involved since the 1980s and created a matching fund to honor her son Rick Moon, who died of a heart attack in 2013 at 45.
“Around 2015, I was trying to figure out how to celebrate my son’s life,” Moon explained. “He was an Alexandria boy, loved sports, and so I thought, why not create a matching fund of $20,000 a year? We have raised $245,000 for young students in all four Alexandria high schools.”
Moon added, “I believe God took my son so I could help other people.” She was later honored during dinner with a Past President award and Life Membership.
Alexandria Vice Mayor Amy Jackson delivered a proclamation on behalf of the mayor and city council. Council members attending the awards dinner included John Chapman, Alyia Gaskins, and former councilman Frank Fannon. Thomas Hodges, a former Alexandria Hammond High School graduate, was inducted into the ASC Hall of Fame. A surprise award, Sportsman of the Year, went to 2018 president Tom McHugh.
The real draw of the night was keynote speaker Jessie Coffield. A St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School graduate, she recalled sitting in these seats and winning a trophy for field hockey in 2009. The 32-year-old went from an internship in the car dealership industry to Super Bowl commercials. But getting from A to Z was grueling work, and Coffield used the evening to impart some words of wisdom to the young students in the ballroom.
The Power of Failure
“I’m sure tonight you’re expecting a speech about a success story,” she said. “But what I want to talk to you about tonight is…failure.”
Coffield detailed her setbacks, starting with her first year at Boston College when her sports coach demoted her. In her senior year, she suffered a concussion. She was told to stop playing or risk serious neurological damage. “At the ripe old age of 22, I had to retire medically. It felt like everything I’d worked so hard for was being ripped away from me at that moment. I wallowed in self-pity. But I’d already learned something from failure. Failure was a motivator.”
Coffield had to figure out a Plan B following college graduation. She knew she wanted to go before the camera and report on sports. She applied everywhere, from Idaho to Buffalo, but each attempt was met with a resounding “no.” Determined, Coffield finally landed an internship in Atlanta but as far from sports as she could imagine.
“People think it’s glossy,” Coffield told Zebra during the cocktail hour. In truth, she was alone in Atlanta, living in a tiny apartment, and had no local friends. “All my friends had graduated from Boston College. They had good job offers in New York and Boston. They’re on their way, and I am an intern.” But she persevered until her lucky break, a sideline reporter with the New England Revolution, a Major League Soccer team.
After dinner, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson took time to reflect on the organization and its contribution to the city.
“The Alexandria Sportsman’s Club has supported our community and our kids for over 76 years. If they continue supporting our community, we need to step up to support them,” Jackson said. “Four high schools in our city. Not just one. Not just two. Public and private schools. I don’t know any other event that includes all four high schools.”
Coffield recounted those early years to Zebra. “There’s a fake it until you make it vibe. You dry your eyes, slap that smile on your face, and get out there. You cry when you get home.” And with that, she raced to the airport for another event and back to her one-year-old baby Vivienne.
2023 Special Recognition Awards
PAST PRESIDENT AWARD – Marion Moon
2023 HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE – Thomas B. Hodges
SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR – Tom McHugh
COACHES OF THE YEAR – Scott Conklin / Danielle Thorne
LIFE MEMBERSHIP – Marion Moon
ALEXANDRIA RECREATION DEPARTMENT ATHLETES OF THE YEAR – Kylie Moore and Calvin Clarke, aged 10
2023 ASC Athletes of the Year
Episcopal High School
Buom Jock – Football. Colorado State University
Carson Cowburn – Cross Country Boys
Caulley Deringer – Lacrosse – Boys. UVA
Mary Schroeder – Squash, Girls.
Max Yang – Climbing.
Tilford Griggs – Squash, Boys.
Alexandria City High School
Alessandro Terrell Sanders – Rugby, Boys. Norfolk State (VA)
Anna St. Jean – Swimming, Girls. Wheaton College (MA)
Avery Miller – Softball. Longwood University
Bella Mclemore – Dive, Girls.
Calvin Wiedemer – Washington and Lee University
Daniel McGinnis – Baseball. Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA
Eduard Reyes – Soccer, Boys. Alderson Broaddus University
Eleanor Lynch – Crew, Girls. UVA
Emma Toggia – Rugby, Girls. Virginia Commonwealth University
Jolan Foronda – Swimming, Boys.
Kye Robinson – Basketball, Boys
Mac Coulby – Dive, Boys
Morgan Fraser – Track and Field, Girls.
Milan Rex – Volleyball. UC Santa Barbara
Wilson “Cash” McClanahan – Crew, Boys. The University of Vermont
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes High School
Giorgio Corica – Wrestling. Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ)
Drew Norton – Baseball. Dickinson College
Ali Barrow – Soccer, Girls. US Naval Academy
Chris Shorter – Track and Field, Boys
Hannah Floyd – Cross Country, Girls
Jacob Foti – Golf
Margaux DeVaul – Tennis, Girls
Bishop Ireton High School
Camilo Gomez – Tennis, Boys
Ella Lupo – Cheerleading. Virginia Commonwealth University
Lauren Keast – Field Hockey. Catholic University
Nyla Brooks – Basketball, Girls. Verbally committed to the University of Tennessee
Ryan Quaid – Ice Hockey. James Madison University
Siena Puglisi – Lacrosse, Girls. Princeton University
2023 ASC Scholarship Winners
Alexandria City High School – Milan Rex, Emma Toggia, Julia Lungren, Malik Kunata, Kullen Robinson, Eleanor Lynch, Madeline Crowe, Calvin Wiedemer
Bishop Ireton High School – Hailey Duffet, Meckenzie Letellier, Ryan Quaid, Ella Goulet, Elizabeth Cheney, Siena Puglisi, Audrey Pickard
Episcopal High School – Nala Cornegy, Ava Foulk, James Deringer Jr.
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes High School – Kylie Payne, Michael Guglielmone