12 Superstar Athletes Who Grew Up Here
These sports greats spent their formative years in Arlington, McLean and Falls Church.
Our area has given rise to plenty of famous folks, from politicians and pundits to movie stars and television celebs. Oh, and did we mention world-class athletes? These sports powerhouses hit their stride here, too.
Our thanks to local historian Charlie Clark for sharing his research on local athletes for this story.
As a student at J.E.B Stuart High School in Falls Church, Charlie Garner was a star athlete in more ways than one. He scored touchdowns, intercepted passes, sped down the track and racked up points on the basketball court. Hailing from Bailey’s Crossroads, Garner gained legendary status after an iconic 240-yard, four-touchdown performance against rival Washington-Lee in 1989.
After attending the University of Tennessee, Garner was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and went on to have a solid NFL career, making the Pro Bowl in 2000. Today, he is opening a catering business in the area.
Born in Ukraine, Denis Kudla moved to Arlington at a young age, where his talents on the tennis court were soon noticed, despite the fact that his parents had no experience with a racket. Although he is currently ranked 172nd in the world, last May he reached a career high with a ranking of 53rd. Kudla played for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Gliding through the water like a dolphin (despite his asthma), Tom Dolan showed promise at a young age during his early morning training sessions at Washington Golf and Country Club. By the time he reached his high school years at Yorktown, Dolan set several American swimming records. At 21, he won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Four years later, he nabbed gold and silver at the 2000 Games in Sydney. He also was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and on a box of Wheaties. In 2012, after retiring from competitive swimming, Dolan opened a swim school in Sterling.
As a freshman, Eric Metcalf wasn’t allowed to play on the varsity team at his Seattle high school. So he moved. His mother was reportedly fine with the relocation, so as long as he went to a Catholic school. That’s how Metcalf came to live in Arlington with his father, NFL player Terry Metcalf, and attend Bishop O’Connell High School, where he excelled at football—scoring 35 touchdowns in two years—and in track and field, where he set numerous school records. Metcalf graduated from O’Connell in 1985 and went to the University of Texas at Austin. In addition becoming a Heisman Trophy candidate, he nearly qualified for the Olympics in the long jump. After being selected in the first round of the NFL draft, he enjoyed a long, distinguished pro bowl career playing for several teams.
Strikeouts and shutouts were the norms when Pete Schourek pitched during the mid-1980s for George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church. Leading the Statesmen to two state title appearances, the left-hander didn’t simply deliver fastballs. He could also hit, smashing a school record for home runs in a career. In 1987, he was a second-round pick in the MLB draft by the New York Mets. Four years later, he was pitching in the majors. He had his best year in 1995 when he finished second in the National League’s Cy Young voting (awarded annually to the best pitcher in the league). After his career, Schourek returned to Northern Virginia, where he lives today.
Beverly Johnson lived for adventure and made history among rock climbers. After graduating from Yorktown High School in 1965, Johnson moved west, where she became the first woman to climb Yosemite’s deadly El Capitan alone. “Rocks make no compromise for sex,” she told Sports Illustrated in 1978. “On a rock, everything is equal.”
Later she exchanged bare cliffs for snow, skiing across Antarctica and Greenland. She also became the first person to journey solo across the Straits of Magellan in an open kayak. Johnson didn’t just excel in athletic pursuits. She was also a documentary filmmaker who risked her life capturing the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s. In 1994, Johnson died (along with the pilot and Disney president Frank G. Wells) in a helicopter crash during a skiing expedition in Nevada. A decade later she was inducted into Yorktown’s Hall of Fame.
As a tall, lanky student at McLean High School, Sam Stitt found his first sports love in basketball. But he wasn’t very good, so he turned to rowing. He joined McLean’s newly established rowing team and soon became a nationally renowned sculler (a rower who uses two oars at a time). In 2008, he represented Team USA at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
During the mid-1960s, Jake Scott dominated opposing wide receivers as a standout cornerback for the Washington-Lee Generals. However, because of poor grades and spending “more time with a pool cue than a book” at Friendly’s Billiards on Washington Boulevard (now a Comfort Inn), Scott transferred in his senior year to the Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, enduring a long commute from his home in Arlington’s Buckingham neighborhood.
He made good, however, and received a scholarship from the University of Georgia, where he set interception records. He was drafted into the NFL in 1970 by the Miami Dolphins, where he was named to several Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl MVP award in 1972. In 1976, he joined his hometown Washington Redskins and retired three seasons later as one of football’s all-time greats. Today, he lives in Hawaii. This year, Jake Scott was inducted into Washington-Lee’s athletic hall of fame.
George McQuinn may well have been an unsung hero among the sluggers of his day. Born in 1910 in the area we now know as Ballston, McQuinn learned to hit on local ball fields, including one that today is the site of the Ballston Common Mall. A star player for Washington-Lee, he had to become an elevator operator after high school to make ends meet. Fortunately, he was discovered a short time later and was eventually signed by the St. Louis Browns. He became a seven-time All-Star and led the hapless Browns to their only American League pennant in 1944. Three years later, he helped the New York Yankees win the World Series. McQuinn would later open a sporting goods store on North Highland Avenue in Clarendon (today it’s Cherry Blow Dry Bar). He died on Christmas Eve 1978.
Michael McCrary, courtesy Charm City Sports Network
An NFL Pro-Bowler, First-Team All-Pro and team leader on the Super Bowl-winning 2000 Baltimore Ravens, Arlington native Michael McCrary is known for his “never quit” attitude and for being a take-down machine, ending his career with 71 sacks. He retired in 2002 because of knee injuries and was later inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor.
The Havens Brothers
Nearly a century ago, the Potomac River was a training course for Arlington’s most decorated athletic family. Three members of the Havens family were Olympic canoers, making a name for themselves starting with the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Living along the banks of the Potomac River, the family was routinely seen paddling down the waterway at impressive speeds. In 1948, Frank Havens brought home the family’s first medal.
The 1960 Olympics in Rome was the last time a member of the family participated in the Games, marking nearly four decades of canoeing dominance for this local clan.
By her own account, Bishop O’Connell graduate Kate Ziegler only joined the swim team because she wanted the suit. “It was blue with fireworks… and I thought it was so cool,” she said in a 2007 interview. As a kid, Ziegler trained at McLean’s FISH, long considered one of the country’s best swim clubs. By her junior year at O’Connell, she held a U.S. record and was considered “the most promising American distance swimmer in a generation.” She competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 Games in London. In 2016, she started the MBA program at the University of Tennessee.
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