Tephra Presents New Series — Reston-based Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art will present a new exhibit by Virginia-based artist Travis Childers. The exhibition, titled Borrowed and Not Returned, will be on view at the Signature gallery from Feb. 10 through June 28. [Tysons Today]
Reston Artist Creates Jackets for Sports Stars — Reston-based artist Taylor Olson has become a go-to for hand-painted custom jackets in the sports world. Olson, 34, majored in graphic design at James Madison University. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Herndon Residents Lose Power — Roughly 1,800 Dominion Energy customers lost power due to a downed power line on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. [Herndon Patch]
Photo by Ray Copson
Business Burglarized in Herndon — Local police are looking for a man who may have robbed a business on the 700 block of Elden Street on Jan. 18. Police recently released a video of the subject. [Herndon Police Department]
Bingo Activity Results in Backlash — A high school lesson plan that included an activity called Privilege Bingo has resulted in backlash against the Fairfax County Public Schools system. The activity marked several demographics as privileged. [Local DVM]
Reston Athlete Competes for Olympic Gold — Maame Biney is gearing up for this year’s Olympics in Beijing. The Restonian is the first black woman to compete on a U.S. short track speed skating team. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Photo by Terry Barans
State of Emergency Declared for Snow — “Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency in advance of a winter storm that is predicted to bring snow and other winter weather to many parts of Virginia. This storm, expected to arrive Thursday evening into Friday morning, comes on the heels of a storm Monday that left more than a foot of snow in some parts of the Commonwealth.” [Office of the Governor]
Reston Company Sponsors NASCAR Driver — The technology contractor Leidos is teaming up with basketball legend Michael Jordan’s racing team to become the official sponsor for Bubba Wallace, the only full-time African American driver in NASCAR. Wallace’s new Leidos No. 23 car will debut at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, in March. [WTOP]
Cornerstones Highlighted in ‘State of the County’ Address — Community partnerships have been vital to Fairfax County’s COVID-19 response over the past year, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said earlier this week. The Reston-based nonprofit Cornerstones is among the groups involved, providing primary medical care, dental care, pharmacy assistance, and COVID-19 testing. [Patch]
County Seeks Farmers Market Vendors — Applications for farmers and other producers to serve as vendors at the Fairfax County Park Authority’s farmers markets will be open from Jan. 21 to Feb. 11. The county operates 10 markets, including the Lake Anne Village Center market in Reston and one by the Red Caboose in Old Town Herndon. [FCPA]
Maame Biney, the 21-year-old Restonian who became the first Black woman to land a spot on a U.S. Olympic speedskating team, is bringing her local Northern Virginia flair along with her on her Olympic journey.
For the last year and a half, she’s been training in Utah, where she earned a spot this month to compete in the upcoming 2022 Olympics. But despite not being face-to-face with people back in Fairfax County, she told Reston Now that she still has pieces of home with her, such as when grade school teachers Mrs. Bentley and Damon reach out to her.
“That’s super nice to know they’re out there supporting me and wanting the best for me beyond the role of a student, but as a skater and human being,” Biney said in an email.
Biney’s record-breaking history includes competing in the 2018 Olympics, and after three days of competition ending Dec. 19 at U.S. qualifiers in Utah, she secured her return to the Games next year in China.
She and four other female skaters, including Kristen Santos, made the short track team. Biney is the only returning Olympian on the squad.
“What was going through my head during qualifiers, was just to chill,” she wrote.
The athletes made the team based on their overall performance in six races (two 1,500-meter races, two 1,000-meter races and two 500-meter races).
Biney’s iconic smile came out as she skated off the rink following her win in the 500-meter final, quickly taking the lead from a third position on the starting line.
“I was mainly focused on my breathing and trying to be calm throughout the very big storm,” she said by email. “I really wanted to make my second Olympic team, but I can’t be too hard on myself. Then during the 500 I proved to myself I still got it, and I’m still the 500 queen!”
Overcome with emotion and talking amid tears, she talked about her family, friends and God
“This is for them,” she told NBC Sports while eventually breaking out smiles again.
Biney moved to the U.S. from Ghana at age 5 and began speed skating at the age of six.
While still a high school student at South Lakes, she made her Olympic debut in South Korea at age 18.
In high school, she also won bronze and gold medals at the world junior championships in 2017 and 2018 and defended her title as a University of Utah student in 2019 — when she also set a junior world record.
Flash Flood Watch in Effect for Ida — The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch and Hazardous Weather Outlook for Fairfax County that will be in effect today (Wednesday) through tomorrow morning, as the remnants of Hurricane Ida pass over the region. The county advises avoiding flooded streets, moving valuables from basements, and making sure storm drains and gutters aren’t clogged. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]
Alcorn Denies County/Golf Course Development Deal — Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn told the citizens’ advocacy group Rescue Reston that Fairfax County is not aware of any deals to redevelop one of Reston’s two golf courses. A Rescue Reston board member said his group had been told a development deal was “in the works with the county,” which Alcorn denied. [Patch]
Eagerness and Uncertainty Mix in High School Football’s Return to Reston — “By 6 p.m. Friday, the only remaining evidence of that afternoon’s thunder and rain were shallow puddles dotting the back parking lot at South Lakes High School in Reston…It was time for a football game. This matchup between the Seahawks and Robinson was one of about 50 games played across the D.C. area last weekend — the official return of fall football.” [The Washington Post]
RA Announces Labor Day Weekend Pool Schedule — The North Shore, Ridge Heights, Lake Newport, and Glade pools will all be open from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 4-5) and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday (Sept. 6). While the summer pool season is coming to a close, the North Shore and Ridge Heights pools will remain open through Sept. 19. [Reston Association/Twitter]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Fairfax County has joined three other Virginia localities to create SportsNOVA, a marketing partnership aimed at promoting Northern Virginia as a destination for sporting events.
As the county’s official tourism organization, Visit Fairfax announced on Aug. 10 that it has aligned with the marketing arms of Loudoun, Prince William, and Strafford counties to promote and pitch the region.
The agencies believe the location, availability of already-built venues, and accessibility of public transportation make Northern Virginia an ideal place for sports tournaments, events, and championships.
Eric Kulczycky, Visit Fairfax’s national sales manager, says sports can be a huge economic driver for a region, and he hopes that this partnership can help better capture those dollars.
“[Sporting events] can generate taxes and jobs,” he said. “Through visitor spending like hotel stays, eating at restaurants, buying tickets to [events]…Our mission is to generate additional spending and get new money coming into our communities.”
There is evidence that sports drive considerable economic activity. One 2019 study conducted by a sports tourism trade association found that 180 million trips were made in the U.S. for sporting events — from youth to professional leagues — with more than half of those trips being overnight.
Visitors who stayed overnight spent $359 per person on average.
Northern Virginia has hosted a number of large sports events in recent years, including the 2015 World Police & Fire Games, the 2017 Senior PGA Championship, and a Kayak Bass Fishing tournament this past May.
The hope, Kulczycky says, is to entice more events of this nature, like regional hockey tournaments and more senior-centric sporting events.
One of the main selling points is that the county and region have a number of available venues, several of which are relatively new.
There is also George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena, which is on the verge of a major renovation. Elsewhere, there is Segra Field, which opened in Loudoun County two years ago, and the Jeff Rouse Swim and Sport Center in Stafford, which was also only completed a few years ago.
Kulczycky says there have been preliminary conversations in Fairfax County about opening additional indoor and outdoor sporting complexes as well.
Not every Northern Virginia locality is part of this partnership. Notably, Arlington County isn’t in the consortium. Kulczycky says Arlington officials have not been currently actively pursuing the sports tourism market, but there’s an “open invitation” for them to join.
Kulczycky says the decision to combine forces with other localities was due to the realization that being together was better.
“There are multi-sport and large single-sport events that Fairfax County simply cannot host unless we secure facilities in other jurisdictions,” he said.
Plus, Kulczycky notes that a combined marketing campaign is more cost-effective.
SportsNOVA is simply an extension of what Fairfax County and Northern Virginia has been trying to do separately for years.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and there’s always been an interest in hosting sports tournaments in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia,” Kulczycky said. “So, we’re just continuing to look to expand opportunities in the sports market.”
Monday, August 30
- Take Me Out To The Ball Game (5 p.m.) — Join the Reston Association for a night at Nats Park. All are welcome to grab a ride on the bus (pick-up at 12001 Sunset Valley Drive) and head to the ballpark. Seats are under cover and snacks/drinks are welcomed on the bus.
Tuesday, August 31
- Owl Prowl (8:30-9:30 p.m.) — Head out to Potomac Regional Park in search of the barred owl, Northern Virginia’s most frequently-observed owl. Listen closely to hear their call which sounds a lot like the owl saying “”Whooooo cooks for youuuu?”
Wednesday, September 1
- Yarn-aholics (7 p.m.) — Calling all knitting, crochet, and yarn enthusiasts, head over to George Mason Library in Annandale for a yarn meet-up. Discuss projects, learn from one another, and share yarn!
Thursday, September 2
- Evening Under the Stars (6 p.m) — Peer into the night sky at the George Mason University Observatory. Hear from experts and glance through the state-of-the-art telescopes to see the stars. Note, stargazing might be cancelled if atmospheric conditions do not allow for viewing.
Friday, September 3
- Broadway in the Park (8 p.m.) — Wolf Trap National Park celebrates the return of live theater and Broadway with their own special show, featuring performances from Hamilton’s Renée Elise Goldsberry and Tony Award-winning Brian Stokes Mitchell. Plus, a few favorites from Arlington’s Signature Theater as well.
Saturday, September 4
- Lake Anne Jazz and Blues Festival (1–8:30 p.m.) — Reston’s jazz and blues festival is back after taking a year off. This edition will be the 14th annual with performances from a number of well-known area groups, including the Doc Dikeman Big Band.
- Arlington Festival of the Arts (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) — This two-day arts festival in Clarendon is back on with artists across the country coming to show and sell their wares. Masks must be worn inside the festival at all times.
Sunday, September 5
- Ghost Hunting Tour (8:30 p.m.) — Start the spooky season off early with this ghostly tour in old town Manassas. The “Ghost Doctors” lead the tour through this centuries-old town, while looking and, perhaps even, interacting with spirits.
- Virginia Scottish Games (9 a.m.-6 p.m.) — Piping competitions, terrier races, highland dance, and fiddling performances are just a few of the competitions that are taking place at this year’s Virginia Scottish Games. Head 40 minutes west from Reston for a day’s worth of athletic competitions, bagpipes, and whiskey.
(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) All high school students will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in school sports, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced this morning (Monday).
The requirement will apply to students who plan to get involved in Virginia High School League winter and spring sports this school year, along with activities like dance team and out-of-season workouts that require a physical, but it will take effect on Nov. 8, prior to the postseason for fall sports like football and field hockey.
An FCPS spokesperson says the Nov. 8 date was chosen, because that’s when the school system will start having indoor sports.
“As FCPS students return to our school buildings, our priority must be on our academic programming,” the spokesperson said. “Our data is showing that a significant number of our cases stem from athletics and a disproportionate number of students are having their learning impacted. Therefore, we have made the decision to mandate vaccinations for students who wish to partake in a number of close contact athletic disciplines. By taking this step, we hope to limit the number of students who are being instructed to remain out of school buildings.”
The announcement comes one week after FCPS started its 2021-2022 academic year and 10 days after the district issued a vaccination mandate for employees that’s expected to take effect in October.
As recently as last Tuesday (Aug. 24), school officials had expressed uncertainty about the legality of requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students.
“As I understand it, that’s not something we’re able to do yet in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Brabrand said at a school board work session. “…I do think, just like the staff vaccination mandate, we need to, as this pandemic evolves, continue to go back and return to these kinds of issues that can really help make our schools safe for in-person instruction now and forever.”
Mount Vernon District School Board Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders, who served on a state task force that looked at the issue, confirmed that Virginia law requires any vaccination requirements for students come from the Virginia Department of Health, which would refer the mandate to the General Assembly.
“The legislature is not meeting again until January, but this may be an area where this board, as we look at our legislative priorities, would urge that,” Corbett-Sanders said.
However, in that same meeting, some board members raised concerns about students missing class time due to sports-related COVID-19 cases and the amount of time that health officials needed to conduct contact tracing, since there was no system in place to quickly determine who had already been vaccinated.
FCPS says vaccinations can be mandated for student athletes without state approval, because sports aren’t required activities and students don’t earn grades or credit for participating in them.
According to the FCPS case dashboard, 234 people, including 164 students and 69 staff members, have reported testing positive for COVID-19 to the school system this month as of Friday (Aug. 27).
Most cases appear to be occurring in elementary schools, but Brabrand says the majority of instances where high school students need to pause instruction have been the result of exposure during athletic activities.
“While we know this is a difficult decision for some families, it is an essential step that we must take to limit the duration of a pause, getting students back to the classroom and their activities sooner, but still safely,” Brabrand said, noting that FCPS will work with the Fairfax County Health Department to ensure students have access to the vaccine before the mandate takes effect.
Brabrand’s full message to the FCPS community can be found below: Read More
(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) When the Washington Football Team opens its season against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 12, Northern Virginia fans who catch the game at FedEx Field might notice a familiar name among the stadium’s food options.
The Herndon-based, family-owned taqueria Casa De Ávila Tacos is one of eight local vendors included in the ‘Flavor of the DMV Showcase’ that D.C.’s NFL franchise will introduce to FedEx Field for the 2021 season.
“A year ago we never saw ourselves on a huge platform, where we find ourselves today,” Abraham Avila, a founder of the taqueria, said. “I consider it lifechanging.”
Abraham and his wife Stephanie Avila launched the taqueria on Sept. 5, 2020 with his mother Luz Avila and sister Jessica Avila.
Stephanie, whose background is in nursing, came up with the idea for the taqueria because she wanted to do something different. After the couple discussed the idea, Luz and Jessica offered to assist with the venture.
“In the beginning, we knew our food was good. Growing up, my friends would always come over and they would always look forward to my mom’s cooking,” Abraham said.
With influences from Guadalajara, Mexico, the taqueria’s recipes are often homemade, coming from either his mother’s family or his wife’s side of the family.
“When we started, the reception was great,” Abraham recalled. “We didn’t expect the numbers we had, and so that very first day we looked at each other and we were like, ‘we’re onto something.’ And so we started building a following.”
That community support inspired the Casa de Ávila team to apply for the Washington Football Team’s first-ever Flavors of the DMV Showcase, which was brought to their attention by a customer.
Abraham says, when he and his wife discussed the possibility of applying, they initially felt daunted by the competition, but they realized that “the worst they’re going to say is ‘no.'”
“So, we submitted the application and we told them why we think our food would be a good idea as they’re reinventing their image,” he said. “And a couple weeks later we got the invitation as one of the finalists to compete. We were over the moon.”
The family taqueria pitted its birria quesatacos against restaurants, food trucks, food stands, and more from the D.C. area. They were evaluated by a tasting panel consisting of Washington Football Team Vice President of Guest Experience Joey Colby-Begovich, Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams, and representatives from Levy Restaurants.
After getting feedback, the family waited a couple of weeks before being notified that they had been selected as one of the official vendors for the season. After initial speculation that Abraham may be pranking the group, the reality of the moment set in, and there were “a lot of tears, screams, a lot of ‘oh my goodness,'” Abraham says.
“That just sent chills through everybody,” he said. “It gave everybody here a new sense of energy. It kind of told us we’re on the right path of what we’re doing.”
During the application process, Abraham made the case that Casa De Ávila could help the football team connect with the local Hispanic community, letting that segment of its fanbase know that “we see you, we hear you, and here’s a piece of home in our stadium for you guys.”
Colby-Bagovich says the D.C. area’s increasingly diverse population was considered when selecting vendors for the showcase, along with the food’s taste, quality, and appropriateness for a stadium setting — that is, food that could be served in bulk and eaten without a table.
“One of our tent pole goals is to bring the community in as a part of our gameday experience,” Colby-Begovich said. “The DMV community is vast and diverse, and what better represents the richness of the DMV than food? We are thrilled to have local vendors representing their cultures, traditions, and culinary delights.”
The NFL extension of Casa De Ávila Tacos is located in Section B 134, near one of the end zones. It features three meats, with quesatacos (cheese) and carnitas (pulled pork) as permanent offerings, while a third will rotate between chicken, al pastor (sliced pork), and carne asada (beef) tacos.
While the NFL showcase will give the taqueria a whole new audience, for its owners, it will always remain a family affair.
“For us, family is number one. So our business name is our family name,” Abraham said.
When Abraham’s grandfather died earlier this year, the family had an opportunity to visit Mexico and bring his grandmother back to the U.S. visit her children. The sight of the taqueria’s name “brought tears” to her eyes, because she saw it as a way to keep her husband’s last name alive, he recalls.
“Being at the stadium, we want [people] to know that they’re also going receive the same high-quality food they can find at our restaurant or anywhere,” Abraham said. “We want to change the game up for concession food. And we’re doing it as a family.”
Masks Now Required in County Facilities — “Beginning Monday, Aug. 9, all employees and visitors — regardless of vaccination status — will be required to wear a mask while inside all Fairfax County facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19…The rise in COVID-19 cases has resulted in the Fairfax Health District moving from moderate to substantial community transmission. This is due to the on-going spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.” [Fairfax County Health Department]
Former FCPS Student Gets Olympic Gold — The U.S. finished first in the men’s 4×400 meter relay at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Saturday (Aug. 7), besting the Netherlands and Botswana. Former South County High School student Trevor Stewart helped Team USA reach the finals by leading the qualifying round on Friday (Aug. 6). He was not in the final heat but will still bring home a gold medal. [Olympics]
General Assembly Reaches Deal on COVID-19 Relief Spending — Virginia’s Senate and House will vote today (Monday) on a deal that negotiators reached late Friday for how to spend $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan funds. Changes from Gov. Ralph Northam’s original plan include the addition of one-time bonuses to sheriff’s deputies, a boost to Medicaid rates for workers who serve individuals with disabilities, and a requirement that the Department of Motor Vehicles reopen for walk-in services that had been halted during the pandemic. [The Washington Post]
NoVA Science Center Eyes 2022 Groundbreaking — The Fairfax-based Children’s Science Center hopes to break ground next year on its long-planned Northern Virginia Science Center in Loudoun County. The project has expanded from its original design, necessitating a relocation to a site that will accommodate an “expansion wing with a dome theater for large-format films and potentially even a planetarium contemplated for a future phase.” [Washington Business Journal]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Updated at 4:20 p.m. on 8/8/2021 — Trevor Stewart will bring home a gold medal after the U.S. won the final men’s 4×400-meter relay on Saturday (Aug. 7), beating the Netherlands, which won silver, and Botswana, which got the bronze medal in the event.
Earlier: Lead-off runner Trevor Stewart helped his team secure the top qualifying spot in the 4×400 meter relay today (Friday) at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which could mean another medal for him in his first Games.
A former South County High School student, Stewart ran 44.79 seconds for Team USA’s combined time of 2:57.77, the fastest time posted for the Olympic Games in Tokyo not only for the Americans in their qualifying heat, but also against a second qualifying heat of eight other teams.
The event’s final race will take place at 8:50 a.m. EDT tomorrow (Saturday).
The Lorton native’s time was slightly faster than his other lead-off leg for the 4×400 meter mixed relay, where Team USA won a bronze medal last Saturday (July 31). This year marked the first time that the Olympics featured the event, where men and women compete together.
“When you believe in yourself, anything can be accomplished,” the 24-year-old said in an Instagram post published on Aug. 1 after the race.
In the mixed relay race, Stewart and teammates Kendall Ellis, Kaylin Whitney, and Vernon Norwood finished with a collective time of 3:10.22. They replaced another American team that was initially disqualified. The U.S. was allowed to continue after the decision was appealed and overturned.
During the men’s qualifying race, which aired live this morning due to Tokyo’s 13-hour time difference, Stewart handed off the baton to former college teammate Randolph Ross, but the two had a slight hiccup in which Ross reached for the baton twice.
Stewart, who has been asthmatic since childhood, helped his North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University team win NCAA championship titles earlier this year, running the 4×400 meter race in 44.67 seconds and 44.17 seconds indoors and outdoors, respectively. He finished his college career with the A&T Aggies anchoring those races.
That team also included Ross, who will be a sophomore at A&T when classes begin Aug. 18.
Ross was the only teammate continuing with Stewart on the U.S. men’s 4×400 Olympic team as their other teammates moved forward with their home countries: Akeem Sirleaf represented Liberia and Daniel Stokes represented Mexico.
Stewart isn’t the only former FCPS student competing in this year’s Olympics. Other local athletes include swimmer Andrew Seliskar, discus thrower Chioma “CiCi” Onyekwere, shooter Lucas Kozeniesky, and West Potomac High School graduate Keyshawn Davis, who will be in contention for the boxing gold medal on Sunday (Aug. 8).
Photo courtesy USATF
Unattended Candle Causes Herndon Fire — An unattended candle that was left burning caused a house fire in the 400 block of Pickett Lane in the Town of Herndon on Tuesday (Aug. 3), displacing seven people and producing approximately $50,000 in damages. No humans were injured, but a dead dog was found on the second floor during search and rescue operations. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]
Herndon Police ID Vehicle Involved in Shooting — A vehicle involved in a shooting incident in the 900 block of Alabama Drive on Monday (Aug. 2) has been identified, along with its occupants, the Herndon Police Department said. No injuries were reported, but anyone with additional information can contact police at 703-435-6846. [Patch]
Nearby: Local Football Team Bans Racist Costumes — “As the Washington Football Team continues to move away from its former identity, the franchise announced on Wednesday that Native American-inspired headdresses and face paint will be banned from FedEx Field. The rule is included in the team’s 2021 season protocols for the stadium in Loudoun County, which will reopen at full capacity for the upcoming season.” [DCist]
Frying Pan Farm to Offer Free Ice Cream — “The Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park invites the community to enjoy free ice cream while supplies last on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, starting at 7 p.m. at Frying Pan Farm Park, located at 2709 West Ox Road in Herndon. Ice cream will be available to visitors attending the U.S. Army Band’s ‘Swamp Romp’ concert.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Michael Delaney Found Dead in Sugarland Run — The remains of Reston resident Michael Delaney were found in the Sugarland Run area on Wednesday (July 21), 14 months after he went missing from Reston Hospital in May 2020. His step-daughter says the family is “heartbroken but feel relieved” to have closure on his disappearance. [Courtney Park-Jamborsky/Facebook]
Matchbox Pizza Opens at Reston Station Today — After a few delays, Matchbox will officially open its new restaurant at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza Drive today (Friday), as promised last month. Some opening activities have been planned, and the venue will serve happy hour specials during the work week with bottomless brunch on the weekends. [Matchbox]
Pickleball Tournament Coming to Reston — “We are excited to announce that the first annual Reston Paddle Battle Pickleball Tournament, on September 18 & 19. See the attached flyer for more info. Register today at pickleballtournaments.com, space is limited!” [Reston Association/Twitter]
Some Fairfax County student athletes won’t be headed to courts or fields this winter, but instead, to computer labs, as the 10th largest school district in the country prepares to launch an esports program.
The Fairfax County Public Schools athletic director detailed the new initiative to Tysons Reporter, saying the new program will connect students in high schools through a popular, soccer-like game — in which players drive futuristic cars — called Rocket League.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for our students,” said Bill Curran, director of the FCPS Office of Student Activities and Athletics, noting how students will have another way to fit in. “I think we’re going to have 25 highly competitive schools in the esports realm.”
While concerns about students’ screen time have persisted, even as the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to adopt virtual learning, competitive online gaming has become increasingly popular, with both high schools and colleges getting in on the esports action.
The market research firm Newzoo reported in March that esports viewership increased from nearly 398 million people globally in 2019 to nearly 436 million in 2020 and could potentially reach 474 million this year.
The NCAA governing board voted in April 2019 against bringing esports under its purview, even as the association noted the rapid growth of esports on NCAA campuses.
“You’re going to see this ball roll faster and faster,” Curran said.
ESPN launched a new initiative to cover esports in 2016, though it shut the division down last year. In 2018, it became the first TV network to air a professional gaming contest in prime time for the cartoon-style multiplayer online battle game League of Legends.
YouTube and Twitch have also streamed content that’s worth billions of dollars and expected to grow annually, though that’s just a small slice of the video game industry.
The Virginia High School League, which governs sports, activities, and competitions in public schools throughout the Commonwealth, introduced esports as a pilot program in 2019 before approving it as an “emerging activity” for the 2020-2021 school year that could become sanctioned as an official VHSL activity.
Fairfax County Public Schools is currently looking for coaches to participate in its esports program, which has been in the works for more than two years and will operate under its Activities and Athletics office. Some teachers have already shown interest in helping, according to Curran.
Students will have to pay a $64 fee each season through a startup company PlayVS, which provides computer games and requires students to maintain eligibility through grades and attendance. FCPS is looking at ways to prevent the fee from becoming a barrier to participation.
With schools expected to open for in-person learning five days a week this fall, FCPS plans to have students participate in existing computer labs, rather than remotely. Like a traditional sports team, Curran says Fairfax County’s esports teams will likely have jerseys.
“Our kids, you know, they’re already playing the games,” Curran said. “They’re ready to go, and they’re eager for us to start this.”
Photo via Alex Haney/Unsplash
Several Olympians competing on the world stage in Tokyo this summer can trace parts of their athletic journeys back to Fairfax County.
Swimmer Andrew Seliskar, discus thrower Chioma “CiCi” Onyekwere, and runner Trevor Stewart all qualified for the 2020 Olympics, which will take place from July 21 to Aug. 8.
The games were delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will be held without spectators after Japan announced on Friday (July 9) that it would enter a fourth state of emergency starting today (Monday) due to rising cases of the virus.
Seliskar, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in 2015, is taking on his first Olympics after two previous qualifying attempts at ages 19 and 15, including one where he “narrowly missed” a semi-final spot.
As a student, he broke a national high school record for the 100-yard butterfly in 2014 near Richmond with 53.24 seconds, and he won four national titles swimming at the University of California in Berkeley before becoming a professional swimmer.
The 24-year-old McLean native told Fairfax County Public Schools that he relishes his competitions against high school rivals.
“Those were great memories, and for my swimming career, those are some of the best ones,” he said.
Heats for the men’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay are scheduled for 6-8:30 a.m. EDT on July 27, and the final will air from 9:30 p.m. EDT on July 27 to 12:05 a.m. EDT on July 28.
Robinson Secondary School graduate Onyekwere will represent Nigeria at the Olympics, since she is a dual citizen of that country and the U.S.
“I feel like Nigeria made me the person I am today, so it’s so nice to give back in some kind of way and represent them,” she told FCPS.
The Michigan-born former University of Maryland athlete currently holds Nigeria’s discus throw record of 63.3 meters, which she set in April in Chula Vista, California, as part of the Nigerian Olympic Trials.
The 27-year-old engineer works for Ford and relocated back to Fairfax County last fall to be with family amid the pandemic, FCPS noted.
The qualifying round for the women’s discus throw is 8:30 p.m. EDT July 30, and the final is 7 a.m. EDT Aug. 2.
Stewart, who graduated from South County High School in 2016, will run the 4×400-meter relay race for Team USA.
His teammates include a fellow student at North Carolina A&T State University. The pair were part of a 4×400 relay team that won national titles this year for the indoor and outdoor track seasons, capping his senior year.
The 24-year-old switched from karate to track and field when he was in ninth grade. To prepare for the upcoming games, he has turned to prayer and meditation, according to FCPS.
“I worked hard for this,” he told FCPS. “There’s always room for improvement, but I’ve made it right now. I’ve made it right here.”
Heats for the men’s 4×400 meter relay are slated for 7:25 a.m. EDT Aug. 6 and 8:50 a.m. EDT Aug. 7 for the final.