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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School

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  • 12/09/16--12:43: Boys Soccer Program Thriving
  • The Week That Was - Sports Blog by Tommy Orndorff


    Some of the more popular blogs through the years have been Q&A sit-downs with our coaches. That noted, this week's The Week That Was continues that recent trend with a Q&A session with boys soccer head coach Chris Jennings.

    THE WEEK THAT WAS: First and foremost, congrats on another tremendous season. Talk to me about both the regular season and the postseason. For a second straight year, we were ranked in The Washington Post Top 10 poll – suggesting your program now has some name recognition and is ready to challenge for top honors in the WCAC each and every year. Ditto for the State playoffs, where we held down the #2 rating in the State poll almost all year long. Give us some insight to this year's team and their accomplishments during the course of the fall campaign, which included a 16-game unbeaten string en route to a 10-3-6 record overall.

    COACH JENNINGS: This year's team was as talented as any side in the area. We returned a youthful, but talented group and promoted some players from within our own ranks. Despite graduating 12 seniors from the 2015 state finalists, we had veteran players returning to the spine of our team. The players stayed true to the principles and values that have become paramount to our success as a program – keep possession of the ball, create chances and work tirelessly to get the ball back if we lose it.

    As you mentioned, we went through a string of 16 games unbeaten and were able to once again get into The Washington Post Top 10. This group also had one other massive achievement – going unbeaten in the rigorous WCAC. I don't know the last time an O'Connell team went unbeaten in the league, but for me, that is a big deal. The quality of the WCAC is pretty remarkable when you consider the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. state championships are likely to be won by a school in our league. To go through the entire campaign without a loss was something we were proud of and speaks to the quality of our program.

    TWTW: Certainly we had more than our fair share of adversity, especially near the season's end when injuries decimated any hopes of a post-season run similar to a year ago. I am interested in your assessment of the season and our play throughout the fall campaign.

    COACH JENNINGS: As I alluded to previously, we pride ourselves on playing an attractive, possession-based game with creative tendencies in the attack and pressing defensively. We like our players to take responsibility for the tempo of the game and to be in charge in possession as well as without the ball. For the most part, we did that this year for long stretches of time. Keep in mind that many of our players are also juggling demanding club team schedules as well. To ask them to perform at a high level for three, four games per week is quite challenging, but they were up for the task.

    We opened the season with an unlucky 1-0 defeat to eventual Virginia state champ St. Christopher's. We created plenty of chances in the game and couldn't quite find the back of the net. The lone goal of the game came from an odd handball and penalty decision against us - and the run of play.

    After dropping the opening fixture, we rebounded to make a run in our non-conference schedule. We went 4-0-2 while scoring 20 goals and conceding five – highlighted by an 8-0 win at Trinity Christian and 4-0 win vs Episcopal.

    We entered WCAC play on a roll and continued through league play with a 5-0-4 record while scoring 27 goals and conceding eight.


    Unfortunately, we did suffer a couple injuries toward the end of the regular season that derailed our playoff hopes. During our 2-1 victory at Gonzaga, our starting goalkeeper – Marcelo Flores (a sophomore, pictured right) – tore his ACL while making a routine save. Our backups did an excellent job stepping in, but Marcelo was a huge loss for our group as he is also one of the team captains. Another sophomore contributor, forward Matthew Cantisani, broke his collarbone late in the season playing for his club team. Senior captain Juan Benavides missed time and most training sessions while battling an ankle injury and our other senior captain, Andres Garcia (pictured top), suffered a concussion late in the year as well. With the injuries and knocks on our group – along with a short bench, we weren't able to muster as long of a postseason run as we would have liked.

    TWTW: Who were our top players – and why were they so? Address their individual skills and abilities and, at the same time, what they brought to the team. Any stats or anything like that would be nice, as well.

    COACH JENNINGS: The Knights were led by returning midfielders Juan Benavides and Andres Garcia. Both players earned All-State honors last year as juniors and looked to continue their good form for their senior season. Andres led the group in goals (13) and assists (6). He also earned WCAC Co-Player of the Year honors along with All-South Region, 1st Team All-State, 1st Team All-WCAC and team Most Outstanding Player. Juan made an early-season position change to more of a defensive midfielder and performed amazingly. From his deeper midfield role, he still managed to drive the team forward and scored seven goals – many of them in big WCAC games late in the season. He also chipped in with four assists while also earning 1st Team All-State, 1st Team All-WCAC and team Most Valuable Player.

    MonteroThere were a host of other players who stepped up and led the group this season as well – headlined by a couple of up-and-coming sophomores, Marcelo Flores and Victor Montero (pictured left). Marcelo anchored our defensive unit from the goalkeeper position and performed admirably all season until his ACL injury. Flores earned 1st Team All-State, 2nd Team All-WCAC and was named a team captain. The Knights will look to Flores for his on-field abilities and leadership for years to come. Juniors Nick Barahona, Jason Nunez and Alex Abril were key to the success of the back four unit, while senior Luis Ochoa (pictured below) made a position change to secure the left back position. Luis' move from midfield to left back proved to be pivotal as he solidified an area of need for the team. He went on to earn WCAC Honorable Mention and the team's Coaches Award. Barahona and Abril were also named WCAC Honorable Mentions.

    Sophomore forward Victor Montero also had an outstanding campaign. He led all underclassmen with seven goals, five assists and won a handful of penalty kicks throughout the year. His service from corners and dead-ball situations proved to be a great attacking weapon for the team. Montero earned 1st Team All-State and 2nd Team All-WCAC. Rounding out the midfield and attack were juniors Aidan O'Connell, Chris Ho and Diego Solano. O'Connell chipped in six goals, while Solano added four goals along with four assists.

    TWTW: Despite the loss of 12 seniors from a year ago, we were once again ranked among the DMV's elite. That speaks well of your program. It appears not only has your program arrived, but it is here to stay. Share with us what you, Chris Jennings, have done to make it so in your five years here at O'Connell. Why are we who we are?


    COACH JENNINGS: The growth and emergence of the boys soccer program has been phenomenal. We have been blessed to have the support of the school administration, athletic department and, most importantly, we have had some great student/athletes come into the program. We have not only attracted talented players to the program, but great young men who have worked very hard to take it to new heights. We also take great honor in trying to play the game in an attractive, possession-based and attacking way.

    Our coaching staff works tirelessly to help the players achieve their personal and team goals while standing by our core beliefs. We feel the game is best played – and more players develop to a higher level – when we teach our players HOW to think and make decisions...not WHAT to think and give them the answers. Our training methods are geared toward giving our players habits to allow them to see what's going on around them, analyze space and make quick, creative decisions. The end result is an attractive product on the field, positive results for the team and the development of creative, talented players.

    TWTW: Anything else that you would like to add?

    COACH JENNINGS: We look forward to the continued success of the program. For the better part of my time here, we have been at the top of the state, recognized in the region and even gained national recognition in a Top 25 poll. The growth and development of the players has been fantastic to witness, and we are anxious to continue to work hard to improve.

    For 2017, we return some talented juniors who we are expecting will mature into a quality senior class. Coming back will also be two All-State sophomores in Montero and Flores, while we expect others to develop and step into more prominent roles as well. There is plenty of hard work to put in this off-season in order to achieve another successful year come next Fall – and we are confident the players are up for the challenge once again.

    This is Tommy Orndorff and that was The Week That Was.

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  • 12/12/16--18:03: Dance Team Shines
  • RDT

    Congratulations to the Bishop O'Connell Royalette Dance Team! The team came away with multiple honors from this weekend's AmeriDance Eastern Virginia State Dance Classic, earning first place awards in the lyrical/contemporary and the variety categories. Their pom routine earned them a third place and an innovative choreography award.

    Individual dancers also earned awards:

    Erika Williams - 1st Place Senior Solo
    Haley Breaux - 2nd Place Senior Solo
    Erika Williams/Haley Breaux - 2nd Place Duo/Trio
    Haley Breaux/Jada Fields/Janeé Burch - 3rd Place Duo/Trio
    Dancer of the Year Nomination - Erika Williams (Senior Solo)
    Honorable Mentions - Margaret O'Connor (solo), Victoria Siegfried (solo), Jada Fields (solo), Janeé Burch (solo), Gaby Dominguez (solo), Leyla Berdut (solo), Margaret O'Connor/Victoria Siegfried (duo)

    The O'Connell parents, family and fans even received recognition, taking home the "Sweet Escape" Show Your Spirit Award.

    ."It was a great event for the Royalettes program," said head coach Chrissy Salvador. "These young women have really come together as a team and their hard work is paying off."

    In addition to performances at home boys and girls varsity basketball games, the dance team has two more regional competitions and the National Dance Team Championship in Orlando, Florida early next year.

    Find out more about the Royalette Dance Team...

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    40 Under 40 Award

    Congratulations to Bishop O'Connell English teacher, John Meehan, who was recognized by the Arlington Leadership Center for Excellence on Dec. 2 as one of this year's "40 Under 40" honorees. Each year, the Center recognizes 40 emerging leaders under the age of 40 who demonstrate impact personally and/or professionally through their exceptional leadership in the DC metropolitan region—hailing them as "the next generation of trailblazers."

    The award comes at the end of a busy year for Meehan, who also serves as the coordinator of the school's "igKnight" teacher professional development program. His role as an instructional coach has been recognized at the state and national level--with presentations at the annual conference of the Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the annual conference of the National Catholic Education Association, a panel presentation at Notre Dame University's Play Like a Champion Today Athletics Leadership Conference, and an appointment to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's 2016-2018 Teacher Advisory Council.

    Meehan was unable to attend the awards luncheon in person, as he was fulfilling his commitment at the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle for the winter working session of the Teacher Advisory Council (TAC), where he serves on their instructional leadership subcommittee. He will return to Seattle for the council's summer working session in June of 2017.

    The TAC is a group of 50 teachers from across the U.S. committed to a two-year term, who comes together on a regular basis to support the development and review of the foundation's education strategies, share their insights on how to translate that vision into implementation in schools and districts, and provide feedback and perspective as they lead this work in the field. Through online collaboration, the cohort likewise engages in regular planning and professional development initiatives between their bi-annual meetings. Meehan was chosen from a pool of more than 400 exceptional educators from around the country. He will serve on this committee for the 2016-2018 school years. Mr. Meehan is the only Catholic school teacher on the TAC in the country.

    "Anyone who has dropped by Mr. Meehan's 11th grade literature classroom has witnessed an extraordinarily passionate teacher and a completely engaged class of students," said Carl Patton, Assistant Head of School. "He has taken that same enthusiasm and energy to help shape our peer-to-peer professional development program at Bishop O'Connell."

    "This year has been a whirlwind," Meehan commented. "I'm so proud to be a part of the incredible work that we are doing at Bishop O'Connell High School, and I'm humbled and honored to have the opportunity to be recognized for our efforts in spheres outside of our school. I can't thank the faculty, the staff, and the administration enough for everything that they continue to do each and every day in support of Catholic education."

    Below: Meehan sharing his classroom experiences at last year's Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development conference.

    Meehan VASCDHW

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  • 12/16/16--12:33: 'Tis the Season
  • A Message from our Head of School, Joseph Vorbach:

    Throughout the season of advent, we are challenged to acquire and maintain our focus on the true meaning of the Christmas season. We want to be truly in the Christmas spirit, yet struggle sometimes when the external trappings of the holiday pull our attention from the birth of the Messiah. Here at school, while there are distractions, we are also blessed with the opportunity to prepare the school for Christmas and to pray together throughout the season.

    Along the way, we are also reminded of the true meaning of Christmas by small but meaningful gifts that we receive. For the faculty and staff yesterday, one such gift was the breakfast put on by the PTO with the help of the wonderful food service team from FLIK at our school. Beyond the delicious breakfast treats was the joyful presence of so many parents who came out to serve breakfast to the team at the school. Their smiles and their expressions of gratitude were wonderful gifts to receive.

    On Wednesday and Thursday night, we received the gift of music and song from our talented student performers. Sitting in the auditorium at the end of a busy day and listening to students perform together so beautifully is a wonderful gift. At the choral concert last night, where students from St. Mark School in Vienna performed along with our O'Connell students, the finale was a powerful rendering of the Hallelujah can hear just a bit of it HERE.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

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    Something great is happening at Bishop O'Connell... It started on #GivingTuesday and it goes until December 31. It includes all parents who are grateful for their children's O'Connell education, all alumni who are proud to be Knights, and all friends who value exceptional Catholic education.

    If O'Connell has made an impact in your life or the live of someone you love, now is the time to show how much you love this school!

    Join the 2016 Battle of the Decades by making a gift to the Knight Fund and help Bishop O'Connell shape the lives of more students. Just select which graduation decade best applies to you when you make your gift and then check out the Battle of the Decades Leaderboard to find out which decade has the most Knight Pride.

    Ready for the best part?

    If you give before December 31, ALL gifts will be doubled!

    Share this challenge with your fellow parents and alumni on social media and really get the competition revved up! If you sign up for an account on the challenge page an become an "advocate," you will get a unique link to share via email and social media that will let you track exactly how many clicks, gifts, and dollars you have inspired.

    You can make a difference in our students' lives today. Make a gift, become an advocate (on the challenge website), and show the school how much you love Bishop O'Connell!

    Go Knights!

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  • 12/21/16--09:27: Walk humbly With God
  • Thoughts from our Head of School, Dr. Joseph Vobach:

    On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to attend O'Connell student Gabe Gaudet's Eagle Court of Honor induction ceremony at Troop 111 in Saint Agnes Parish in Arlington. The ceremony actually began with the presentation to Gabe Gaudet of the Boy Scouts of America Medal of Merit for his actions in response to an overturned vehicle accident he witnessed in Arlington last year. Gabe assisted the driver from the wreckage and remained at the scene to provide witness testimony to the police and fire/EMS.The Arlington County Police officer whose testimony became the basis of Gabe's award commented on the way that Gabe did not hesitate to take action and assist someone in need. At the ceremony the other night, Gabe called his friend and O'Connell classmate Nahom Tesfazghi forward to share in the recognition as it was Nahom who called 911 when Gabe went to assist.

    As the ceremony progressed, all Eagle Scouts in attendance were called forward to surround Gabe during his induction. There were about 25 Eagle Scouts in attendance, some of whom earned their Eagle recognition more than 50 years ago. Our chemistry teacher Kurt Meinsen was there, having earned his Eagle Scout honor in Hamden, Connecticut in 1970. At the appropriate moment, Gabe was joined in Scout salute by all these Eagle Scouts who reaffirmed their commitments as he promised to continue to "Do his best and do his duty..." as an Eagle Scout. These moments at St Agnes the other night reminded me of the Old Testament verse from the Book of Micah that tells us what God asks of us: "Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God."

    Over the course of the week, I have had a number of opportunities to talk with students around the school as they were studying for exams. I have been impressed with the diligence and purposefulness I have seen. The students have been serious in their approach and clearly focused on making the most of their opportunities with the exams. They have been trying to "do their best, and do their duty." They have now earned a break -- a chance to recharge, to refocus, to take stock of their blessings and opportunities, and to be reminded by those who love them that God asks only that they do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with him.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

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    Story by student correspondent, Joseph Kamal '18.

    Ambassador Nealon

    Students in the Global Studies Certificate Program at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington participate in a variety of seminars and discussion groups. Earlier this year they were honored to be hosting the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Honduras, James D. Nealon.

    Ambassador Nealon is a 1973 graduate of Bishop O'Connell. He studied history at Boston College, before entering the foreign service in 1984. His assignments have included embassy positions in Spain, Hungary, the Philippines, Uruguay, Peru, Chile and Canada. On August 11, 2014, he was sworn in as the Ambassador to Honduras.

    The Global Studies students enjoyed an after-school discussion with Ambassador Nealon on the daily life of an ambassador, the role of embassies today and the importance of representing the United States in countries all around the world.

    Presentations like this offer unique learning experiences to high school students on matters relevant in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. "It allows me to focus on a subject I enjoy, without having to stress about grades and tests," said sophomore Carina Ritcheson. "I can just learn."

    O'Connell's Global Studies program is an optional beyond-the-classroom that has more than 100 students enrolled. Participants choose to focuses on one of six main topics: faith and humanitarian issues, global business and finance, language and culture, global health and environmental issues, arts and humanities, and global politics. In addition to regular seminars like Ambassador Nealon's event, students attend after-school "core courses" on ethics, global business and global politics taught by O'Connell faculty members.

    "The Global Studies program continues to be an extraordinary vehicle to expand and challenge student thinking," said Head of School, Joseph Vorbach, who holds a Ph.D. in international relations and teaches the global politics core course. "The students are the focal point of this program, and they never fail to raise thought-provoking questions at our events."

    Ambassador Nealon concurred: "While I wasn't sure what to expect, what I found was a large group of students who are deeply committed to learning about the world and who have an informed and sophisticated opinion of it."

    Global Studies students who complete the program earn a certificate upon graduation, and more importantly, they take with them newly gained knowledge and perspective derived from those who are active in the fields that interest them most.

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    Gala Banner

    What's all the fuss about? We are kicking off our 60th year at Bishop O'Connell High School with a Diamond Jubilee Gala & Auction and YOU are invited to help us celebrate!

    Join us Saturday, February 4, 2017 at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner for cocktails, dinner, and dancing to the sounds of Rhythm6, one of the DC area's hottest event band. And that's not all...Don't miss our newest attraction, our cigar & bourbon tasting tent. There is something for everyone - silent and live auctions, raffles, sign-up parties and a fantastic evening with student performances.

    It's time to grab your friends and get your seats today! If you're new to the O'Connell community, don't worry - seating is a breeze. We are happy to pair you with someone based on your student's year or activities.

    Through January 8 tickets are $135 a person and your purchase includes entry into a drawing for a free hotel room. On January 9, tickets return to their regular price of $150 a person.

    Can't attend? Consider sponsoring a faculty member.

    Buy tickets button

    Questions? Contact us at or call 703-237-1446.

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  • 01/06/17--13:54: Optimistic Energy Everywhere
  • Thoughts from our Head of School, Joseph Vorbach:

    Over the Christmas break, I had a chance to watch our wrestling team in a tournament at Paul VI. The student-athletes on the wrestling team practice intensely for match opportunities that are nothing if not intense. These wrestlers combine agility, strength, judgment, endurance, and technical skill as they take on equally motivated competitors from the other teams. The wrestlers are too numerous to mention by name, but I was impressed by the heart and effort they all showed, as well as by their sense of camaraderie.

    Also over the holiday, the captain of our cheerleading team, Frankie Love, participated in the London New Year's Day Parade. On any given afternoon or evening at our school, you can find the cheer and dance teams practicing diligently to perfect new choreography and stunts. Their commitment to their craft and one another is always noteworthy.

    This morning at Mass, members of the O'Connell Singers sang so beautifully -- a solo of "O Holy Night" by Besa Bucaj and an equally lovely rendering of "Silent Night" by Ava Coffin, Rosie Coolidge, and Elise Walsh. Our singers and musicians dedicate countless hours of individual and group effort to bring heart and soul to their music.

    The beginning of a New Year is a good time to look forward with a sense of optimism. Talented, hard-working and kind young people are an amazing source of both optimistic energy and a sense of the possible. We find these students all over the school and we are blessed to have the opportunity to play some role in helping them pursue their dreams. We have this opportunity because of the ongoing support of the wider Bishop O'Connell community, assistance that helps enrich the spiritual, academic, social and physical growth of our students.

    A fun and community-building opportunity to provide that support is our upcoming annual gala at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner on Saturday, Feb. 4. If your schedules permit, I encourage you to join us for an evening that is both a great celebration of our school's rich history and an exciting look into the future that will be our next 60 years and beyond.

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    Royalette Dance Team photo

    Despite of the long Christmas break and a snowed out practice on Saturday, the Royalette Dance Team brought their best to the East Coast Regional Championship at Lake Braddock Secondary School on Sunday, Jan. 8, taking home multiple trophies for team and individual competitions, including:

    1st Place - Varsity Novelty/Variety (Team)
    1st Place - Varsity Lyrical/Contemporary (Team)
    3rd Place- Varsity Pom (Team)
    Best Showmanship Award - Varsity Pom (Team)
    1st Place Lyrical Senior Solo - Erika Williams '18
    2nd Place Lyrical Senior Solo - Haley Breaux '18
    3rd Place Lyrical Senior Solo - Gaby Dominguez '20
    5th Place Lyrical Senior Solo - Leyla Berdut '20
    7th Lyrical Senior Solo - Margaret O'Connor '17
    2nd Place Jazz Senior Solo - Jada Fields '17
    4th Place Hip Hop Senior Solo - Janeé Burch '17
    3rd Place duos/trios - Erika Williams & Haley Breaux
    Honorable Mentions for Senior Solo: Caroline Brenninkmeyer, Julia Stievater, Katarina Visek, Victoria Siegfried

    This event brought high school teams from throughout Northern Virginia, including Chantilly, Dominion, Herndon, Langley, Oakton, Paul VI, Potomac Falls, Woodson and Seneca Ridge.

    Next up? Nationals in Orlando, Fla. In early February. Go Knights!

    Find out more about the Royalettes...

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  • 01/09/17--12:08: Broadway Desserts - Feb. 18
  • The Bishop O'Connell music department presents:

    Broadway Desserts
    Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.
    Doors open at 6:15 p.m.
    Upper Gym (Entrance #8)

    Your elegant evening begins as you enter the performance venue with reserved tables seating. Enjoy dessert from a delicious assortment with coffee or tea. Once the lights dim and performers step on stage, enjoy an evening of Broadway musical selections performed by O'Connell music students.

    Seating is based on three ticket levels:

    • Premium Admission includes reserved seating at front row tables, dessert and coffee or tea. ($35)
    • Select Admission includes reserved table seating, dessert and coffee or tea. ($25)
    • O'Connell Student Tickets include unreserved chair seating, dessert and coffee or tea. ($5)

    TICKETS SELL OUT QUICKLY - Due to the limited quantity of tickets, all requests will be filled in the order received based on ticket availability. If the ticket level you order is not available, your order will be filled with tickets at the next available level and the cost difference returned to you.

    Tickets will be held for pick-up on performance night. Doors open at 6:15 p.m.

    Question? Contact

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    Bishop O'Connell counselors, Sarah Stuhlman, Cynthia Germann and Kristina Herbst, recently had the opportunity to participate in a public service video produced by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (, a national non-profit with a 25-year history focused on ending drunk driving, preventing underage drinking and promoting responsible alcohol consumption for those of age. encouraged everyday Americans to define what "responsibility means to me." For some, this means taking a safe ride home. For anyone under 21, this means not drinking. And for others, even of-age consumers, it means not drinking. They are also dedicated to providing educators with the materials they need to have conversations with their students about underage drinking.

    "When our counselors were asked to share about the role they play in helping students make responsible and healthy decisions, they didn't hesitate," said Erin O'Malley, dean of student services. "This message is consistent with the work they do every day in conversations and counseling programming with students, with parents, and our community. In fact, we will be using components of their Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don't Mix series in our freshman seminar next semester."

    View the video here:

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    Colombian Embassy trip photo

    O'Connell AP Spanish and Global Studies students took a very special field trip to the Colombian Embassy in Washington, D.C. this week, where they were welcomed by Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzón.

    The ambassador provided an overview of his country, where he showed his passion for Columbia and for the United States. "The more you travel in your own country, the better you are to understand everything that surrounds you," he told the students. "Know your history, know your land and love the people."

    The staff from the Embassy gave souvenirs for each students and treated them to a reception that included sodas from Colombia and a typical food called pandebono (cheese bread).

    Spanish teacher Faryde Yanine summed it up this way: "What an amazing day for our students!"

    Photo below: Students present the Colombian Ambassador with a thank you gift of O'Connell gear.

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    District OrchestraCongratulations to violinist Jaime Jarauta-Gastelu, an O'Connell freshman who recently performed with the Virginia Music Educators Association's District 12 Senior Honors Orchestra at a concert held at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington.

    Jaime was selected to the Honors Orchestra based on his performance at the District 12 auditions held in mid-November at McLean High School. As a member of this orchestra, he and other selected students from schools across the region rehearsed together over a two-day period before their final concert performance under the direction of Dr. Peter Wilson of George Mason University.

    "I tell all of our instrumental music students that being in an honors orchestra at this level is like being on an all-star team," said Ron Isaacson, instrumental music director at Bishop O'Connell. "These students have a unique opportunity to perform at a much more advanced level than they do in their own high school orchestras. We are extremely proud of Jaime and his accomplishments."

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  • 01/19/17--19:00: The Enthusiasm is Contagious
  • Thoughts from our Head of School, Joseph Vorbach:

    Today a fellow alum and good friend was in the building and I had the opportunity to talk with him about some new initiatives we have in the school. We were just outside the cafeteria when two students came down the stairs, one of whom is the son of another alum from "back in our day" and I was able to introduce him and another student to my friend. The students shared with this alum their experiences in our expanded services program and a few minutes later I was able to show him on my phone a video of the pre-game activities of our basketball club before the Saint John's game on Tuesday. (View a WUSA9 story from the event HERE.)

    As we went up the stairs, we ran into another student who is a peer mentor for expanded services and she told him a little more about her personal experiences being involved. Her confidence and enthusiasm were impressive. A few minutes later, we were visiting with Ms. Desmarais and Ms. Esposito in their classroom and my friend got a full sense of the collaborative learning taking place. After tonight's boys basketball game vs. Paul VI--an event made even more special than usual by the presence of Bishop Burbidge--I had a short email exchange with my friend and he wrote: "It's amazing to see the tremendous things going on at DJO. The enthusiasm is contagious." I couldn't agree more!

    This happy encounter with my friend was book-ended earlier in the week by our faculty retreat on Tuesday. A wonderful talk presented by Monsignor Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC got us in the right frame of mind before we had opportunities to pray, go to confession, and engage in thoughtfully structured and executed group discussions that focused ultimately on how we can provide even better service to our students. During these sessions, the full commitment of our faculty to serving our students and helping them fulfill their potential was on display in abundance and it was inspiring to listen to the exchanges taking place. Had my friend been part of this retreat, I think he would have sent me the same sentence: "It's amazing to see the tremendous things going on at DJO. The enthusiasm is contagious." I couldn't agree more!

    Mindful of our mission and our charge to pursue it diligently and with humility, we press on here at the school as the second semester begins.

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  • 01/22/17--18:45: Senior Competes for Team USA
  • LaDan Nemati photo

    Congratulations to O'Connell senior LaDan Nemati who returned this week from Salzburg, Austria with a bronze medal around her neck. LaDan is member of the Skyliners Synchronized Skating Team based in Stamford, Conn. Her team captured third place at the prestigious Mozart Cup, where they were one of two senior-level teams representing Team USA.

    What is synchronized skating? According to U.S. Figure Skating, "It is a team sport in which 8-20 skaters perform a program together. It uses the same judging system as singles, pairs and dance and is characterized by teamwork, speed, intricate formations and challenging step sequences." Teams at the senior level, like LaDan's team, perform a short program consisting of required elements, and a longer free skate program.

    Based on their performance at competitions earlier this season, the Skyliners senior team was named to Team USA for two international competitions so far: the Mozart Cup this January, and the Snowflakes Trophy in Zagreb, Croatia in March. In addition, the team is preparing for the US. Synchronized Skating Championships which take place in late February in Rockford, Illinois.

    For LaDan, this medal is the culmination of years devoted to her craft--first as a young individual figure skater, and later honing her skills as a part of a synchronized skating team. She originally skated locally with Team Ashburn, but in recent years she sought out a higher level team in order to better challenge herself.

    "When I auditioned for the Skyliners' team, my family and I discussed the kind of commitment it would take for me to compete on a senior team--the highest level in this sport," said LaDan. "It was a decision no one took lightly." Now most of her weekends start with a Friday afternoon train trip to Connecticut, and include team practices on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, before she returns home, sometimes very early Monday morning.

    Despite the rigorous weekend schedule, LaDan is an honor roll student and a member of the National Honor Society at Bishop O'Connell. She also finds time to be a peer mentor for students receiving expanded services. She is not 100 percent sure of what will come next for her, but she is thinking about studying biology and business, and eventually pursuing a career in the medical field. For now she is soaking in the experience of representing her country on the international stage.

    Skate great, LaDan!

    Pictured above - LaDan (center) and her team skate their short program to "California Dreaming" by Sia.

    Pictured below - The Skyliners Synchronized Skating Team receive their bronze medals at the Mozart Cup in Austria.

    Skyliners - Mozart Cup

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    THE WEEK THAT WAS - Sports Blog by Tommy Orndorff

    Some of the more popular blogs through the years have been Question & Answer sit-downs with our coaches. That noted, this week's The Week That Was continues that trend with a Q&A session with wrestling head coach Alex Vergara.

    THE WEEK THAT WAS: As the end draws near, I am interested in your thoughts on your first season as head coach of the O'Connell wrestling program and all that it entails. I'm sure that it seemed a bit overwhelming at times and, at the same time, a very rewarding experience when your grapplers performed well on the mats. Share your thoughts.

    COACH VERGARA: I would say that the dynamic of being a head coach is vastly different from being an assistant in the respect that administrative tasks take precedence before working directly with the student-athletes. Fortunately, I have been mentored by some great coaches through my years as both an athlete and assistant coach, so I felt prepared. The assistant coaches have been integral contributors to developing our wrestlers.

    The most delicate facets of my first year with the Knights wrestling program have been two-fold: (1) culture; and (2) process. Culture entails hard-wiring every student-athlete's mindset to how a dominant wrestler thinks and behaves both in and out of the wrestling room. The process refers to the overall development and growth in the short (weekly) and long-term (season).

    TWTW: Give us some background on yourself and your assistant coaches, sharing with myself and the readers the passion you and your assistants have for the sport of wrestling.

    COACH VERGARA:I began my official coaching career at St. Stephens & St. Agnes School in the winter of 2011. The coach gave me full autonomy over the training procedures. Over the course of the season, I left the program having helped produce a team record of 17-3, a City of Alexandria Championship title, one IAC champion, five state medalists who finished no lower than 6th, a 6th place team finish out of 30-plus teams (a program best in nearly a decade) in the VISAA, and three National Prep qualifiers. I left to coach in the VHSL at Thomas Edison High School alongside my former high school coach from Bishop Ireton. Over four seasons, I helped produce 11 conference champions, three regional champions, and two state champions. In addition, I am a volunteer coach at the Gunston Wrestling Club, which runs out of Hayfield Secondary School's wrestling room. They run during the Spring, Summer, and Fall and train wrestlers from all over the D.C. metro area.

    Coach (Jonathon) O'Brien is a former University of Buffalo wrestler who comes to O'Connell after a year of teaching and coaching in Texas. He produced five sectional qualifiers and one state qualifier in his brief coaching tenure.

    Coach (Sean) Haskett is a local native who competed for Lake Braddock Secondary School. He is a two-time conference champion, one-time regional champion, and two-time AAA state medalist (before the VHSL split from three to six divisions). As a coach, he mentored three district champions, two regional champions, and two state finalists – one of which was a state champion.

    Coach (Evan) Malone is a U.S. Marine who competed for Case Western Reserve University. He is a 2007 graduate of Bishop O'Connell. Coach Malone integrates his experience as a former competitive wrestler into the room by integrating new systems and processes that serve our student-athletes.

    TWTW: Numbers, or rather the lack of numbers, presents problems unique really to wrestling. I think that I understand, but explain further for our readers.

    COACH VERGARA: In high school wrestling, there are 14 weight categories that range from 106 pounds to 285 pounds. Presently, we are able to fill 10 of said weight categories on a consistent basis. The lack of numbers present difficulty in being competitive when we go head-to-head with another team. We forfeit the missing weights to opposing teams, which accounts for massive swings before we even begin the competition. This is why I directed our focus on tournaments where individuals only need to focus on their own performances rather than the team aspect. In the meantime, I have been working on tapping into the pools of talent from youth programs around the region to bring in rising freshmen with experience and aid in filling our lineup where it is most needed.

    It is no secret that there is a lot of taboo when it comes to wrestling – especially for people who are unfamiliar with all of its intricacies. The big two are weight loss and skin conditions. Firstly, no one in our program is permitted to use any drastic measures to lose weight. We carefully coordinate with the athletic trainers to monitor the BMI (body mass index) of each wrestler and ensure that no one is losing weight at a fast rate. The nature of our training will cause everyone to lose body fat and develop lean muscle, whether it is deliberate or not. Our primary concern is each student-athlete's health and well-being, and any of our wrestlers can vouch for that. Secondly, the issue with skin conditions arises exclusively when student-athletes do not shower, wash their clothes, or if the facilities are not clean. We have strict policies set in place to ensure that all of these points are addressed as a preventative measure. In the event that a skin condition were to come up, I would refer to the habits of the student-athlete's personal hygiene. It is strictly on a person-to-person basis.

    TWTW: Who were our top wrestlers this winter, and why were they so?

    COACH VERGARA: We still have about a month left in the season, so it is difficult to give a preemptive synopsis until it's all said and done; however, I can speak to the recent results. John Edmond (senior, 138 pounds--pictured right) is currently ranked #4 in the VISAA, whereas Chris St. George (junior, 126 pounds--pictured above) is ranked #3. Both recently earned silver medals at the Commonwealth Catholic Classic, which is otherwise noted as Catholic States. Chris also finished fourth in the 32-man bracket Northern Region Classic.

    John Edmond's most noteworthy skill is his methodical approach. He is patient and capitalizes on an opponent's mistakes. He does an excellent job of working through their lines of defense (head, hands, hips) and is a hammer. Chris St. George, on the other hand, likes to implement new techniques and open up his offense. He is increasingly becoming more difficult to scout. He is one of our best technicians on the mat.

    TWTW: Looking back on the 2016-17 campaign, give me some highlights on the season.

    COACH VERGARA:I will be as transparent as possible and state that we do not have collective highlights on the season at this point, but the least I can do is mention what our results have been. They include the following team finishes: Bishop Ireton Classic (9th); NOVA Classic (26th); Mount Mat Madness (31st); and Commonwealth Catholic Classic (5th).

    Individually, I could tell you of all the medals our wrestlers have earned, but they are absolutely meaningless in my opinion. If they need a token as a reward for doing what they are supposed to be doing, then I have taught my wrestlers nothing. The accomplishments lie in building their confidence and developing habits that translate into their daily lives. The medals will eventually end up in a box or dumpster years from now, but the skills they learn will stick with them. It takes a lot of moxie to come in not knowing a single thing about a sport where you will eventually be left alone to face someone who wants to impose their will on you in front of a large audience... In either case, if you still happen to be curious, the following are what our individual wrestlers have earned:

    BI Classic: Chris St. George (3rd/126 lbs); Chris Rohan (4th/145 lbs); Brian Sweet (4th/152 lbs); Alan Parker (3rd/160 lbs)

    NOVA Classic: Chris St. George (4th/126 lbs)

    Commonwealth Catholic Classic: Chris St. George (2nd/126 lbs); John Edmond (2nd/138 lbs); Brian Sweet (3rd/152 lbs); Alan Parker (3rd/160 lbs); Will Jones (5th/113 lbs); Bishan Shourie (5th/170 lbs); Joe Young (5th/285 lbs)

    TWTW: Anything else that you would like to add?

    COACH VERGARA: I am likely among the most optimistic wrestling coaches you could find. I have faith in what I am doing at Bishop O'Connell and that we will draw (positive) attention. I have done it before at my previous two programs. It will only be a matter of time before the stands are full of people who want to be part of and/or support the Knights wrestling program. That's the dynamic of anything, really. We see it in athletics, businesses, schools, and so forth. In the meantime, I am thrilled to be a catalyst in aiding these men realize their capacity for stellar performances as a student/athlete. As for now, I am highly motivated to embrace the process and get back to work.

    This is Tommy Orndorff, and that was The Week That Was.

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  • 01/27/17--14:24: A Busy Week
  • Thoughts from our Head of School, Joseph Vorbach:

    It has been a busy seven days. Last Thursday our boys basketball team took on Paul VI in our gym, and as I entered the gym after a committee meeting, I learned via a text from Father Thompson that Bishop Burbidge was coming to the game. In fact, he was already in the gym. It was great fun to see our new Bishop in a photo op with the 500+ Knights in the "O-Zone." It was an amazing game --after DJO senior Matt Lewis tied the game with a three pointer with under 5 seconds remaining, PVI was able to draw a foul and win on a free throw as time was expiring.

    The week just ending included some special moments too. The Social Studies department had its Rho Kappa Honor Society ceremony on Wednesday night, inducting 106 new members. This gathering was blessed to receive a wonderful testimonial from counselor Cynthia Germann about her experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa.

    The next day, we welcomed Bishop Burbidge for his first Mass at our school and a day of visiting students and faculty in and out of the classroom. The Bishop ate lunch with students and spent time in Q&A with them in multiple classrooms. He shared some of his vocation story with them, as well as some perspective on his role as Bishop. He was very generous with his time and he made himself very accessible to the students.

    Today, about 250 faculty and staff participated in the Rally for Life at George Mason University in Fairfax and the March for Life on the Mall in Washington, D.C. As Head of School, I was very proud of the students who chose to peacefully and prayerfully bear witness to the sanctity of human life.

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    Last fall, O'Connell senior Susana Juarez Rodriguez was recognized by the Catholic Business Network of Northern Virginia (CBN-NOVA) as one of four diocesan high school winners of the 2016 YES Award (Youth Exemplifying Service). She holds a special desire in her heart to bring smiles to the faces of children Mexico, and she has worked tirelessly to collect food, clothing and art supplies to fulfill this mission.

    Susana was recently highlighted in the Arlington Catholic Herald. Read more about her most recent trip to Mexico...

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  • 02/02/17--15:00: Corn Hole Tournament Success
  • The 4th Annual Corn Hole Fundraiser for Boys Lacrosse on Jan. 28 was a great success, with a record number of folks coming this year! This year's 3-peat champions were none other than O'Connell English teacher Carleen Knauf and her husband, Duane! The team raised lots of funding through raffles, auction and generous donations from alumni, sponsors and friends of the program. We would like to acknowledge and thank the following sponsors:

    Amphora Restaurant, Vienna, VA; Area Safe and Lock; Ashburn Wine Shop/Sergio Mendez; Beauty Scope Beauty Supply Store; Bertucci's in Ashburn; Bonefish Grill @ Broadlands Ashburn; Clyde's Willow Creek Farm; Coopers Hawk Winery and Restaurant; DJO Alumni & Families; DJO Athletic Director - Joe Wootten; Dogwood Tavern, Falls Church, VA; Glory Days Grill, Fairfax, VA; Kyle Knight - State Farm Insurance Agent, Reston, VA; Lacrosse Unlimited, Vienna, VA; Landsdowne Resort and Spa; Mediterranean Breeze; Parallel Wine & Whiskey Bar; Sterling Dental Care - Nicholas Papagorgeou DDS; Thavy Lynch – E Venture Real Estate; Turrisi Companies, LLC; Tuscarora Mill Restaurant Group; Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles.

    It was a great night to be a KNIGHT! The Spring Season starts next month - Be sure to come out and cheer your Boys Lacrosse teams on!

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