Charles Colgan High is the newest high school in the Prince William County school system. Now finishing its first year, the school may be best known to many as the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. Although Colgan has enrolled students from ninth through 12th grade to boost its total to just over 1,600, the athletic department has mostly operated with a jayvee schedule for many sports during its inaugural year, and will begin varsity play in the fall of 2017.
That's most of the sports. Under longtime coach Dave Davis, the Sharks have flourished in athletics in its first year, in spite of a team roster stacked with freshmen and sophomores.
"I'm lucky," said Davis, who left Mountain View after 12 years to take on the expansion squad with his longtime friend and colleague Bill Stearns. "I have four (excellent) athletes."
At the 6A state championships, the boys placed eighth with 26 points, while the girls tied for 24th place with four.
The boys were boosted by a pair of juniors who gave the Sharks two state champions - distance runner Antonio Lopez, and jumper Joshua Prince Gilliard.
Lopez, originally from Spain, was a force of nature in the distance runs on Saturday. As the sun began to peek its head at 9 AM on Saturday morning, Lopez closed out the boys 3200 with a convincing five and a half second win (9:15.38) over Cox senior David Scherrer. Later, he placed third in the 6A boys' mile (4:16.74), behind Northern Region veterans Brandon McGorty of Chantilly (4:13.91) and Alex Delvecchio of Lake Braddock (4:14.03).
Gilliard has labored a bit in his development as a long sprinter and 300-meter hurdler. However, he has excelled as high jumper since tying for third with a jump of 6-4 as a freshman at C.D. Hylton two years ago. On Friday, Gilliard upped his best by an inch, and his 6-7 leap was enough to overtake both Terrence Sakyi of T.C. Williams and Kurt Powdar of Oscar Smith, who both jumped 6-6, to give the Sharks their second outdoor individual state championship.
The girls have been just a bit slower to develop, but they have power in numbers and some talent in the shadows. In particular, Davis draws attention to sisters Grace Yeboah-Kodie, a junior, and Lauren, a freshman. Grace placed fifth in the triple jump, although her hop, skip and jump of 38-10.75 was off the 39-6.5 she jumped to place third in the 6A North meet. Lauren placed seventh in the 55-meter hurdles during the 2017 indoor states with a time of 8.23, and she is also showing marked improvement as a long jumper.
Davis also noted his girls' 4x400 relay of Jordan Smith, Asha Martin, Tina Coulter, Payton Brooks and alternate Courtney Knox. Although they placed just outside of scoring range, their time of 4:07.46 bodes well for the future.
Most of the Shark performances give the coaches hope for the coming years, and serve as one reason why Davis, who has coached at the high school and collegiate level (eight years over two stints at Georgetown) for 42 years was primed to make the move when learning of the new school. A chance to collaborate with his former rival and partner, Stearns, also played a role.
"I knew Bill from when he coached in New Jersey, but when he moved to Virginia, he was the coach at Potomac, at the same time I was at Hylton," recalls Davis. "We would put our kids together to train, and both teams benefitted. People hated us because we were in the same district. But did I want to beat his team? You bet! Did he want to beat mine? Of course! But we did it (collaborated) for the kids."
"We remained friends and he had just retired as an athletic director. When the coaching job posted, I gave him a call and said, let's see if they would hire us as co-coaches." The two share head coach billing for cross-country, indoor and outdoor track.
Davis didn't look far to find two other qualified assistants, seeking out Skeeter Jackson and Melissa Tirone. "I've known Skeeter for a long time, and Melissa was with me for 12 years at Mountain View."
The quartet maintains a great synergy which has kept interest high. "We make it work," said Davis. "It's a great atmosphere. Skeeter works with the jumpers and hurdlers and we have some Olympians from Nigeria that used to run with me that come out to practice. The kids get to benefit as not many high school kids get to watch Olympians practice on a regular basis. Bill and Melissa generally work with the distance runners, and I'll be with the sprinters or throwers. But we all do a bunch of stuff. If one of us misses practice, it's not a big deal because someone can fill in."
The numbers don't lie. In spite of the school's performing arts theme, the Sharks roster has swelled to over 90 athletes. "Of course, we have kids that have to miss for a band concert or chorus, and that's what you're dealing with."
Next year, the bar will go up. "We have 70 percent freshmen and almost operate as a middle school program," said Davis. "But the expectations are there. He thought back to the first day of cross-country practice to illuminate his point. "We had a ten-minute run. We might have had a couple of runners who could go for 30 minutes, but most of them had never run at all, and we could only go for ten minutes." He speaks proudly of his team's long distance runs which now last from 60-90 minutes.
Davis and Stearns will already face one challenge with the loss of Lopez, who will move back to Spain. But he aims to turn a setback into an opportunity, a theme which could define the Sharks in the next few years. "The levels of the people that ran with Antonio every day gave them expectations. That's where we're going."