Running on to the Next Level

After years of hard work, countless miles logged, a vast amount of hurdles cleared, and a completed college search, seniors Katherine Duquiatan and Sean Tully recently signed their Division I National Letters of Intent.  Katherine will be doing track for the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and Sean will be running cross country for Radford University. This was the third signing ceremony John Paul has witnessed, following Kelly Donovan’s (American University for soccer) in 2012 and fellow member of 2015 Josh Cox’s this year.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be officially doing a sport in college. Ever since I started getting into sports in middle school I knew I wanted to go D1. I just never knew for what sport so it’s great to finally see that my hard work finally paid off,” Duquiatan said following her signing ceremony.

Seniors Katherine Duquiatan and Sean Tully sign their Division I National Letters of Intent

Seniors Katherine Duquiatan and Sean Tully sign their Division I National Letters of Intent

“Running has become one of my biggest passions during high school. I’m glad with my hard work and the help of my coaches I’ve been able to take it to the next level,” said Tully.

He will be on scholarship for cross country at the southern Virginia school, but he will also participate in track and field. Recently, Tully broke the school-record in the 1600m run (about one mile) with a time of 4:29, and he the proceeded to break his own school-record for the 3200m with a time of 9:41.

Both Duquiatan and Tully are in the process of completing their spring track season here at John Paul. A highlight of the team’s remaining meets is Catholic States on May 9, an event that will be held at home for the first time in school history. The boys team is the reigning Catholic State champions, having also won the meet in 2012.

Congratulations again to Katherine and Sean on the culmination of their hard work over their years in high school. We wish them all the best as they pursue their talents at the next level.

Posted in Co-Ed Sports, Cross Country, Home, Indoor Track, Track and Field | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wizards Provide Magical Gift for Options Student Natalie Beck

Over eight years ago, Rick Hodges of Northern Virginia, the parent of a child with Down syndrome, had the idea to attempt to pass legislation that would allow those with Down syndrome to live with a much more secure sense of financial stability. Hodges drafted the first version of the act in 2006. Shortly thereafter, Steve Beck, also the father of a daughter with Down syndrome, became the driving force towards the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. As described in the Washington Post article, Mr. Beck and his daughter, Natalie, were as close as close can be, and he strove to make a difference for her and the Down syndrome community.

Essentially, the act allows those with disabilities to have financial options similar to those without disabilities. As also explained by the Boston Globe, those with disabilities did not nearly have the same financial ability to save money for their futures. Many in this day and age might not even consider the repercussions of the limits disabled people have financially, but Mr. Beck and Mr. Hodges did; and they wanted to change this status quo.

For years, my family has closely monitored the progress of the bill because my uncle has Down syndrome. However, we were not fully aware that those writing and fighting for the passage of the bill lived just a short distance from us. In December, when my mom showed me the article in the Washington Post, I made a connection I simply hadn’t up until that point. I recognized the picture of Natalie and her family, and realized the Natalie Beck in the picture was the same one that is currently an Options student at my school.

Mr. Beck worked for years to pass the bill through the gauntlet that is called Congress, and he saw all his hard work pay off on December 3rd, 2014, when the bill passed in the House of Representatives. Then, unexpectedly, five days later, Mr. Beck passed away, less than two weeks before the bill passed in the Senate and was signed into law by President Obama. Mr. Beck’s name was later honorarily added to the bill.

The school community was deeply saddened by the loss of Natalie’s father, and one student in particular wanted to do something for Natalie.

Josh Holmes, a member of the Class of 2016, thought about what he could do for her. A member of the cheerleading team, Natalie loved donning her uniform and pumping up the crowd after her somersaults.

Josh explained that one day, “(Natalie) came up to me and she told me, my daddy is an angel looking down on me from Heaven, and hearing this broke my heart. And I felt obligated…to help her out some way.”

Josh took to Twitter to contact a member of the Washington Wizards’ cheerleaders to see if they could do anything for Natalie. Originally, Josh hoped some members could come to a basketball game and perform with Natalie, but with snow days and some logistical issues, that wasn’t able to happen.

Derric Whittfield, the coach of the Wizards’ cheerleaders, received an email from Josh explaining the situation and asking if there was anything the Wizards could do for Natalie. Coach Whittfield was more than happy to help, and he sent a package of gifts to be given to Natalie.

Josh received the package and presented the gifts to Natalie after the all-school Mass last Wednesday. Included were fun gifts such as sunglasses, along with a team picture of the Wizards’ cheerleaders autographed by the whole team, and two tickets to an upcoming Wizards game. In attendance at Mass was Natalie’s mom, Catherine, who was overwhelmed by the love and support by the John Paul community after what had happened.

“Natalie was so happy to receive this gift.  She loves cheerleading along with her awesome squad at Saint John Paul the Great.  Josh’s presentation brought me to tears. We are so honored to have a daughter who is a student as Saint John Paul the Great.  And what happened here today at Saint John Paul the Great is one of the reasons why.  Josh Holmes went to great lengths to do something extra special for a fellow student.  He chose to use his time to help someone who had a need.  Josh, just a student,  used his expertise in Twitter and his love for basketball, he shared his gifts with another.  This is the same theme that Mr. Beck followed when working for eight years on the ABLE Act.  Mr. Beck, just a Dad, took advantage of his proximity to Washington D.C. and his love for politics, he shared his gifts with another. Here are two great examples of how two ordinary people shared their time and talents and accomplished extraordinary things for the benefit of another.  Pass it on!” she said.

Josh Holmes (left, 2016) and Natalie Beck (right, 2018) after the presentation

Josh Holmes (2016) and Natalie Beck (2018) after the presentation

Also noted in the Boston Globe article is the amount of bi-partisan agreement, rarely seen on Capitol Hill, that occurred in the passage of this bill. Many members of Congress were personally affected by the ABLE Act, with children of their own having Down syndrome.

“This was a rare case, said Crenshaw, of ‘Democrats and Republicans, the House and Senate, all coming together.’ As far as its origins, Crenshaw paraphrases Ronald Reagan: ‘There’s no limit with what you can accomplish, as long as you don’t care about who gets the credit,'” Joan Vennochi wrote.

After the presentation, Josh himself was affected by all that had happened,

“I mean when I saw Natalie walk in and (heard) everyone clap for her I honestly held back tears. It’s hard for me to express emotions but seeing the smile on her face was amazing and the fact her mom was there to see that all and see everyone cheer for her daughter was touching. When I started giving her the stuff from the package and her face started lighting up I can’t even explain that feeling it’s just amazing to see her that happy.”

Josh would also like to thank Coach Whittfield and the entire team of Washington Wizards’ cheerleaders for what they did for Natalie.

It is these kinds of acts of goodness that show us what a good place this world really is. With many issues and situations affecting nearly everyone in some sort of way, it is important to shine a light on the positive ones. This type of generosity is what restores hope to many.

Included below is the YouTube video of the presentation.

Thank you Josh, for making a difference. And thank you, Natalie, as well as the whole Beck family, for affecting change on the world, one step at a time.

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Wolves Rally on Boys Basketball Senior Night

In the final basketball game of the season on February 19th, the Wolves were set to square off  at home against the Cadets of Benedictine. The visitors entered the game ranked #7 in the latest VISAA poll. However, the Wolves were accustomed to stiff competition at home and had already taken down powerhouse Clinton Christian as well as Episcopal.

It was not only the final home game of the season, but it was also senior night for the lone senior member of the team, Xayvin Johnson. A key member of the squad, Johnson has been a vocal leader in controlling games all season long, and it was time to honor him before his final high school game. A transfer his junior year, this was his second season in a Wolves uniform.

The game got off to a very slow start for John Paul, as the Cadets road a wave of suffocating defense and excellent shooting to surge to a 21-11 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Wolves tried to find a way to stop the bleeding but the Cadets had a clear size advantage.

Then in the second quarter, after at one point facing a 31-16 deficit, the tide turned. The light went on and John Paul went on a tear, scoring basket after basket to make it a competitive game. All of a sudden, the noise from the crowd had escalated and the Wolves had taken over the lead. After being down 15, they took a 40-37 lead into halftime.

Despite grabbing the lead, the Wolves weren’t able to put the game away in the third quarter, and they entered the final quarter of play locked with the Cadets in a 51-51 draw. The game remained close up until the very end, when John Paul secured just a slight bit of breathing room as the time wound down.

Behind 21 points, including five threes, from sophomore Brandon Edmonds, 17 points from Johnson, and 16 points from junior Chauncey Wallace, the Wolves outlasted Benedictine by a final score of 76-70.

“It was heart breaking playing in my final game because I knew I would never get to play in front of our amazing fans again, but on the bright side it felt amazing to go out on a win because I knew I would never get to put that John Paul uniform on again. I’m thankful for everyone who made that night special for especially my teammates, the coaches, and the fans,” said Johnson after the game.

The team finished the season with a 10-16 record including home victories over, as mentioned, Clinton Christian and Episcopal, as well as rival Bishop Ireton. After only graduating one senior, the team will look to improve and have a strong 2015-2016 season.

Posted in Basketball, Home, Men's Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment