Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Musical Send-Off for Kenmore SRO — “Kenmore Middle School students came up with a fun way to commemorate the retirement of School Resource Officer Jackie Pagan. They presented a musical dance number Friday, Jan. 11, as part of a flash mob.” [Patch, WJLA, Twitter]

Arlingtonian Has Olympic Aspirations — Arlington resident Sarah Anyan qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials, which will be held next month leading up to the Tokyo games this summer. [RunWashington]

Lots of Police Activity on Clarendon Nightlife — “The 3100 block of Wilson Boulevard in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington County is a hot spot. There are bars, restaurants, and a metro stop all in a block radius… there’s also a surge of calls to Arlington county police, and problems that lead to those calls in the first place.” [WUSA 9]

Del. Levine Pushing Minimum Wage Bill — “A state delegate’s proposed bill to allow localities to set their own minimum-wage levels, provided they do not dip below the federal government’s level, has drawn a tentative response from one local official and outright opposition from two chambers of commerce…. But not everyone agrees with the thrust of [Del. Mark] Levine’s bill. Kate Bates, president and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, said chamber leaders oppose the legislation.” [InsideNova]

Beyer Tapped for Economic Committee — “Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi today recommended Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) to serve as the Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee… The Speaker’s recommendation must be confirmed by a vote of the full committee to take effect.” [Rep. Don Beyer]

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Arlington resident Alyssa Gialamas brought back two medals and a new record from the Parapan American Games in Lima.

The two-time Paralympian athlete won a Gold medal for the 50 meter backstroke as well as a Silver medal for the 200 meter freestyle. Gialamas said she began the multi-event Games with her best race, the backstroke, and finished the with another strong race, the 200 meter freestyle.

Coming in at 47.65 seconds during the backstroke, she also set a new Parapan record.

“I haven’t swam that fast since 2015,” she told ARLnow, adding that “I ended up with a gold in the 50 meter backstroke, so I was really really happy.”

Gialamas was born with arthrogryposis, a condition which keeps some of the joints in her leg from moving easily and began swimming as physical therapy but said she found freedom in the water. When in the water, she says she relies on upper body strength instead of her legs.

By day, she works as a sales consultant with Cigna in McLean where she’s “really blessed” by her coworkers’ enthusiasm of following the race and her company’s support. Netting a medal and a record was also proof the 24-year-old athlete could juggle both worlds.

“To be able to come back and show that you can do both and I can swim just as fast as when I had a full time job as when I didn’t have a full time job made it worth it,” she said.

Gialamas’ balancing act is notable considering she was among the oldest on her team — a fact teammates teased her about.

“I was called Mom a lot of times on the trip and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,'” she said.

The Illinois-born swimmer said there wasn’t much time to explore Lima between the team’s dawn-till-dusk schedule, but she did bring back one souvenir: a nasty cold.

For now, Gialamas says she’s going to catch up on sleep, take a month to recoup from her training regime that’s split between Arlington and Baltimore, and consider what she wants to do next.

“I’m really happy with how it turned out, she said. “I’m just trying to focus on where the next steps take me, and I think that’s a good way to do it because I’m just happy with how I swam and how I respected Team USA.”

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Arlington resident and Paralympian swimmer Alyssa Gialamas is flying to Peru this week for the Parapan American Games.

Gialamas, 24, is a two-time Paralympian who competed in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Games. Now, she’s off to Lima to compete in the Parapan games from August 23 to September 1 — a competition she says many para-athletes use to prepare for the next Olympics.

“I made my first Team actually at the Parapan games in Guadalajara in 2011,” Gialamas said of the competition where she won four silver medals and which led her to her first Paralympics.

A Chicago native, Gialamas was born with a condition called arthrogryposis, which prevents some of her joints from moving freely. Her parents started her swimming at three years old as a form of physical therapy.

“I’ve always loved the water, and felt free in the water, and felt like I can do anything I want,” she said. “I think that’s why I stuck with it for so many years.”

Gialamas uses long leg braces on land and joked that she actually thinks, “my body works better in the water than it does on land.”

“In the water you’re limitlessness,” she said. “There’s nothing holding you back.”

Because of the way arthrogryposis affects her legs, Gialamas doesn’t use them when she swims, instead relying on upper body strength.

Since diving into the competition eleven years ago with the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association, Gialamas won six Illinois state high school championships, and held 22 American records for short and long-course swimming.

At 17 years old, she competed in the London Paralympics, coming in fifth place in the 200-meter freestyle competition. Four years later, she competed again in Rio. After both Paralympics, she met then-President Obama together with the rest of Team USA, an experience she described as “absolutely incredible.”

This year she faces a new challenge: balancing her work schedule with her training goals. Although Gialamas lives in Arlington, she works as a sales consultant with Cigna in McLean and still trains at her Loyola University Maryland college swim team facility in Baltimore two days a week.

“I’ve seen a lot of sunrises,” she jokes, explaining that the schedule means working out of the McLean office three days a week, and out of the company’s Baltimore office two days a week. Every day she aims to arrive at the Baltimore pool, or at the Washington-Liberty High School pool near her Arlington apartment, at 5:30 a.m.

“Because of that I want to swim fast and show people that not only can I work a full-time job, but I can stay as fast as possible,” she said.

“Alyssa has overcome obstacles that would deter most, but these challenges have only fueled her competitive spirit as she sets out to accomplish her lifelong goals,” said Cigna’s Mid-Atlantic Market President Monica Schmude, who added that the health services company is “very proud” of Gialamas and is committed to employee health.

This year’s games will also be a bit different thanks to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s recent name change to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, to include all of the games’ athletes. The renaming comes a year after the organization increased Paralympian prize earnings to equal Olympians’ pay.

“It’s funny that it only added a ‘p’ to the name, but it’s a very big deal,” said Gialamas.

The Arlington athlete is scheduled to depart on Wednesday for the next challenge in Lima, and will race in the 50-meter backstroke and 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle events.

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Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

 Tuesday, Feb. 13

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper
St. John’s Episcopal Church (415 S. Lexington Street)
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.

Join the Shrove Tuesday celebration with the traditional pancake feasting prior to the Lenten fasting. Adults pay $5 each and $3 each for kids 6-12. Younger children are free.

Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade
Wilson Boulevard from Barton to Irving Streets
Time: 7-11 p.m.

A family-friendly parade with marchers, bands, and the occasional dressed up dog or pony. Expect lots of costumes and beads thrown from parade floats.

Wednesday, Feb. 14

St. Agnes Ash Wednesday Mass
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Worshipers can attend Ash Wednesday Masses throughout the day, from early morning until mid-evening, to celebrate the beginning of Lent and receive their ashes.

 Thursday, Feb. 15

Archives of American Gardens: Capturing Garden History
Little Falls Presbyterian Church (6025 Little Falls Road)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The Smithsonian Gardens’ horticulture collections manager, Cindy Brown, will discuss American garden history conservation with photographs and documents. An optional lunch is $5.

 Friday, Feb. 16

Creative Coffee: Mark Making
Connection: Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

A casual weekly creative meet-up for artists to experiment and improve their work in a social setting. Bring your own materials to this adult-friendly gathering.

Sound Check: Music Bingo
Mister Days Sports Rock Cafe (3100 Clarendon Blvd)
Time: 6 – 8 p.m.

Test your musical trivia knowledge with an aurally-inspired bingo game. You’ll have 30 seconds to figure out a song and match it to your bingo card. Prizes after every round and happy hour pricing.

Chinese New Year Celebration
Long Branch Nature Center (625 S Carlin Springs Road)
Time: 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Celebrate the Chinese New Year with the naturalists at Long Branch Nature Center. There will be live animals, dragon crafts, and a short hike holiday-themed hike.

St. Agnes Soup Supper
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.

Sarah Colonna Live
Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 10 p.m.

Comedian, author, and Chelsea Lately roundtable regular Sarah Colonna performs at the Arlington Drafthouse with three performances over two nights,

 Saturday, Feb. 17

USA-Russia Olympic Hockey Watch Party Brunch
Quinn’s On The Corner (1776 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 6:45 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Courthouse sports bar is opening very early for an Olympic USA versus Russia hockey watch party, with $1 champagne flutes and brunch until 5 p.m.

Hamiltunes: An American Singalong
Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Time: 12 – 4 p.m.

Sing along to the music of “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Revolutionary War-era costumes encouraged and appreciated. A costume contest will be held during intermission.

Studio Xfinity’s Lunar New Year
Studio Xfinity (3601 Fairfax Drive)
Time: 1 – 5 p.m.

A free celebration at Studio Xfinity for the Year of the Dog, with dragon dancers, calligraphy, a fortune cookie bar, and more activities.

Conversation: Poets Jodie Hollander and Robert Mezey
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 6 – 7 p.m.

Poets Jodie Hollander and Robert Mezey will read from their works. Hollander will share from her collection, My Dark Horses. Poet and critic Mezey will share from his award-winning body of work.

 Sunday, Feb. 18

President’s Day Celebration at Market Common
The Loop at Market Common (2800 Clarendon Boulevard)
Time: 12:30  – 3:30 p.m.

Don’t want to race yourself? Watch the Washington Nationals’ Presidents race around the Loop. Free Nicecream hot cocoa provided, and there will be a photo booth and prize wheel.

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Simone Biles visiting Arlington gymnasts - photo courtesy Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation

A group of young gymnasts has been doing a lot of jumping and dancing around. This time it’s not for one of their performances, but rather because they won a visit from Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles.

Members of the Arlington Gymnastics program were granted the visit today at Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center as a reward for their efforts in selling tickets to the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, which takes place at the Verizon Center on Thursday.

The Arlington Gymnastics program consists of about 200 girls on the Arlington Aerials team, about 40 boys on the Arlington Tigers team and more than 1,000 weekly gymnastics class participants of all ages. They are all welcome to attend the special meet-and-greet with Biles.

Twenty-five of the young gymnasts also will be a part of the show at the Verizon Center tomorrow, according to Arlington Gymnastics employee and coach Sonja Hird Clark. The children will be a part of the opening act and for a time will share the stage with Olympians, who will be performing on various pieces of equipment.

Arlington Gymnastics membersAs far as today’s Biles visit in Arlington, Hird Clark says it’s exciting for the local gymnasts to be able to see an Olympian in the gym where they train.

“The kids work so hard at this sport and it’s so exciting for them to have the chance to see an Olympian,” she says. “They overcome mental blocks and fears when they see a gold medalist walking through that door.”

The Arlington Gymnastics program is subsidized by Arlington County through the parks and recreation department. Hird Clark says it gives members of all socioeconomic statuses a chance to get involved in gymnastics.

“One of the things that excites me about our gym club is it’s all walks of life,” she says. “We have every type of child in our community… and that’s inspiring to me.”

Photo (top) courtesy Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation

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Morning Notes

Person walking near puddle in Clarendon on rainy day, Sept. 30 2016

Food Star Not Responding to Pleas to Stay — The Food Star grocery store apparently doesn’t have much interest in staying in Arlington after the store, at the corner of Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive, closes to make way for a redevelopment. Despite resident interest in keeping the Food Star, county officials say their efforts to reach out to the company and help them relocate to another location in Arlington have not yet yielded a “substantive” response. [InsideNova]

LEGO Store Grand Opening — The new LEGO Store in the Pentagon City mall is holding its grand opening celebration starting today. The store will be hosting a LEGO Master Builder who will construct a huge LEGO model for display. The first 400 customers Friday, Saturday and Sunday will receive free gifts with qualifying purchases. [LEGO]

Olympic Athletes at Elementary School — A group of Olympic athletes will talk with students at Carlin Springs Elementary this morning. Among the group are shot put gold medalist Michelle Carter, gold medal-winning sprinter Natasha Hastings and long jump gold medalist Jeff Henderson. The athletes will be at the school as part of the Let’s Move! Healthy Schools campaign.

Notable Tree Nominations — It’s that time of the year — if you think you have a truly exceptional tree in your yard that deserves recognition, you can now nominate it for Arlington County’s annual Notable Tree awards. The deadline for nominations is Nov. 15. [Arlington County]

October Is Affordable Housing Month — Tomorrow is Oct. 1 and October is Affordable Housing Month in Arlington, “a month-long celebration of the County’s long-term commitment to preserving and creating housing opportunities that benefit the whole community.” [Arlington County]

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Denis Kudla (Photo by Mike Stobe for USTA, via USOC)On the list of Team USA athletes heading to Rio for this summer’s Olympic Games, there’s only one whose hometown is listed as Arlington, Va.

Denis Kudla, Arlington’s own rising tennis star, will be competing in his first Olympics this year, alongside other major American tennis figures like Madison Keys, the Williams sisters and the Bryan brothers.

Kudla was born in Kiev, Ukraine, moved to the United States with his family on his first birthday, and began playing tennis at the age of 7. The highlight of his career thus far has been reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon last summer, the last American man standing at the Grand Slam tournament.

Kudla has ranked as high as 53 on the ATP world men’s tennis rankings.

The opening ceremonies for the Rio games is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 5.

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This summer, Arlington resident and former U.S. women’s soccer goalkeeper Briana Scurry will be going to the 2016 Olympics in Rio — this time, as a commentator.

Scurry played in the 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympic games and received two gold medals and one silver medal. She was also a key member of the 1999 World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national team.

With her playing career behind her, Scurry has been living in Ballston for the past two years, when she’s not traveling to speaking engagements across the country.

“I love the hustle and bustle of Arlington,” she said.

Scurry, who served as an analyst for ESPN during the 2011 Women’s World Cup, will be traveling to Rio in August to lend her expert commentary to Olympics coverage, including offering pre-game and post-game analysis.

“Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be an Olympian and I was very lucky to play in three,” she said.

The Olympics is always an exciting time for Scurry, even when she is not playing in it. The U.S. women’s soccer team have the opportunity to win their fourth gold medal in a row this summer, and Scurry thinks the team has a great shot in doing exactly that, despite some pivotal players currently being injured.

“Complete and total dominance would be wonderful,” said Scurry.

Scurry has had such an impact on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s program that early last year, she was selected to be a permanent part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Title IX exhibit, which will be opening on September 24.

“When they called and asked if I would be willing to be in the museum, I couldn’t even begin to describe my humility. I couldn’t believe it because that meant my passion and body of work as a soccer player was good enough to be considered as something that was helping my race. It is really humbling to know that,” said Scurry.

Before moving to Ballston, Scurry lived in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, where she was starting her concussion recovery. In 2010, Scurry retired from her professional soccer career due to a season-ending concussion. (She currently serves as honorary captain of the Washington Spirit soccer team.)

Now an advocate for concussion awareness, Scurry will be testifying before Congress about traumatic brain injuries next week.

“It took me three years to finally find the right doctor,” said Scurry. “Now I’m an advocate because if I can go through this much trouble, as an Olympic gold medalist and athlete and I was misdiagnosed and shuffled around, I can only imagine” what others are going through.

Briana Scurry can be followed on Facebook or Twitter.

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Morning Notes

A woman and her dog at last week's Pups and Pilsners event in Crystal City (Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon)

Cherry Trees Planted at Library — As part of its Neighborhood Tree Planting Program, the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Japan-America Society of Washington planted three cherry trees in front of Arlington Central Library yesterday. The program “is an effort to celebrate and share the gift of cherry blossom trees throughout the DC-metro region… and helps create new National Cherry Blossom Festival traditions beyond the Tidal Basin,” festival organizers said in a statement. [Facebook]

Whole Foods Deli, Chicken Counter Stay Closed — The main grocery store and much of the prepared foods sections at the Clarendon Whole Foods (2700 Wilson Blvd) are open following Tuesday’s fire, but county officials say the market deli and chicken counter will stay closed until the health inspector approves its reopening.

County to Consider Privatizing Volunteer Agency — Changes may be coming to Volunteer Arlington, the county’s volunteer agency. Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan is establishing a new advisory task force “to look into whether Arlington’s volunteer office is the right business model to meet community needs.” The task force will consider whether outsourcing Volunteer Arlington “would enhance volunteer activity in the community.” [Arlington County]

Restaurant Exceeds Kickstarter Goal — SER, the winner of Ballston’s Restaurant Challenge, has exceeded its $15,000 Kickstarter goal. The Spanish comfort food restaurant, coming to 1110 N. Glebe Road in Ballston, has so far raised $17,145. It also received a $245,000 interest-free loan as the prize for winning the Restaurant Challenge. [Kickstarter]

Arlington GOP Blasts Olympic Bid — Arlington Republicans do not share Democratic officials’ enthusiasm for the regional bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. “It’s not a great idea,” said local GOP chairman Matt Wavro, citing costs and security concerns. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon

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Renderings of the future Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health & Fitness Facility(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) “Arlington County strongly supports” the Washington, D.C., region bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, County Board Chair Jay Fisette announced today.

Arlington’s support of the bid appears based largely around its currently-stalled plans to build an Olympic-quality aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park, which Arlington expects to be a candidate for the location of the swimming and diving events if D.C. is chosen as the host city.

“Back in June, when we suspended construction plans for Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park, which will include the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, we noted that we expected the park to be part of the plan for bringing the Olympics to the Washington Region,” Fisette said in a press release. “That is still our hope. We believe that Long Bridge could be a great venue for Olympic swimming events.”

The group that will be leading D.C.’s bid to host the Olympics was also announced this morning. The group, called Washington 2024 will be led by Chairman and CEO Russ Ramsey, an investment banker and former board chairman of George Washington. The board includes Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who will serve as vice chairman, Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, chef José Andrés, former National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams.

“This is about bringing the world to Washington and bringing Washington to the world,” Leonsis said in a press release. “The idea of fostering unity could leave, for the whole of mankind, the greatest Olympics legacy ever. Only Washington could do this.”

D.C. is under consideration by the United States Olympic Committee to be its chosen city for the International Olympics Committee. D.C. is one of four American finalist cities, along with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. The United States has not hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 games in Atlanta. The 2016 games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2020 games will be held in Tokyo.

“I speak for the County Board when I say that the Olympics could be a great thing for this region and for Arlington,” Fisette said. “We agree with Washington 2024 that this is an historic opportunity for our region to be part of the Olympic Movement.”

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U.S. Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner paid a visit to the children and faculty of Arlington Science Focus Elementary School this afternoon to campaign against underage drinking.

Wagner, sporting the bronze medal she won this year as part of the U.S. figure skating team, told the hundreds who gathered in the school’s gymnasium that after she started training to become a figure skater when she was 5 years old, she vowed to do whatever it took to get to the Olympics.

“When you’re an athlete, your body is a machine,” she said. “You want the ultimate machine, so you want to take care of it. So I made a lot of important decisions. I ate my fruits and veggies, I drank a lot of water and, when the time came, I said no to underage drinking.”

After the crowd of kids answered questions on the basic facts of underage drinking, they got a chance to ask questions of their own. One student asked how old the 22-year-old is –“someone should teach you not to ask a lady that,” she gamely replied before answering question — and another asked how much her medal weighed, which led to Wagner giving the little boy her medal to hold.

“This medal stays in a sock,” she said when asked where she keeps her hardware from Sochi, Russia. “I should probably find a better place for it.”

In addition to students and faculty, attendees at the event included state Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Patrick Hope and Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibly.

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