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Monday, September 10, 2018

Star Atoms inducted into AHS Athletic Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame Banquet at the Arlington Moose Lodge.
During its 64 years of existence, Annandale High School produced some outstanding athletes, some of whom went on to achieve fame on a national scale.

Many of those athletes – along with the coaches and principals who inspired the Atoms – returned to the community Sept. 8 to share memories and bask in their past glory at the first Hall of Fame Banquet hosted by the Annandale Athletic Boosters.

The Hall of Fame inductees include:
  • Robin Jennings – Played baseball for the Annandale Atoms 1987-1990; All-District four years in a row, and in 1990, All-Region, All Met, and All-State. Jennings played professional baseball 1992-2007 for seven Major League teams, including 16 seasons for the Nationals.
Robin Jennings
  • Sonny Utz – Played football and baseball for the Atoms 1958-1961; four consecutive county football championships; All-Met and All Northern Region. Known as “Mr. Inside” as a champion quarterback at Virginia Tech and played professional football for the Dallas Cowboys and CFL Winnipeg. Sonny Utz died in 1991, and his son Silas Utz accepted the plaque in his honor. 
  • Katherine Buck – Basketball and softball coach at AHS 1955-80; led the girls varsity basketball team to four district championships. (Died in 2017)
Bob Hardage
  • Bob Hardage – Served AHS 1960-90; head football coach and athletic director. Hardage led the Atoms football team to win three state championships (1967, 1972, and 1978) and the state championship in 1978. He was named Northern Virginia head coach of the year four times. Hardage was honored at the banquet for “supporting character on and off the field.” 
  • Rachel Peters – Athletic director and field hockey coach 1955-79. Former soccer coach Cindy Hook, who accepted the award in Peters’ memory, said Peters “was a fabulous coach, a fabulous teacher, and a fabulous role model.”
Jim Finch and his companion, Willie
  • Jim Finch – Served at AHS 1957-86. Coached many sports, taught history, and was principal 1966-86. Annandale High School is “a very, very special place because of the people in the community,” Finch said. 
  • Kathryn Russel – AHS student 1954-57; star player on the basketball team, captain of the softball team. 
Peggy Henry, who knew Russel for 70 years, since they were classmates at Annandale Elementary School, said Russel contracted polio at age 6, had to wear a neck brace, and was told she would never walk again. After intense rehab, she not only walked but became a star athlete. “I’ve proven the doctors wrong my whole life,” said Russel, who at age 80, still swims up to 100 laps three times a week.

Peggy Henry (left) and Kathryn Russel, wearing her old high school sweater.
  • Ed Henry – Coached football and track 1957-65; led the 1965 state championship team and won three regional championships. Hardage called Henry, who died a few years ago, an excellent coach and an excellent mentor. 
  • Amanda Cromwell – Soccer player on the state championship team in 1986 and basketball state championship team in 1988. All Region and All Met in 1987 and 1988; All State and All American in 1988. After AHS, served on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team 1991-98; Gold Medal in FIFA World Cup 1996; played professional soccer on six teams; current head coach at UCLA. 
Amanda Cromwell (right) and former teammate Kate Grove (McCorry)
A former teammate described Cromwell as “fierce, compassionate, gritty, honest, a role model, a leader, loyal, a giver, unselfish, a friend, and funny.” Cromwell credited her parents for “instilling in me a competitive fire.”

In addition to individuals, several teams were inducted into the Hall of Fame, including:
  • The 1959 football team, which won the Northern Region Championship.
  • The 1965 football team, which had an 11-0 record and won the State Championship. 
  • The State Championship-winning 1986 girls’ soccer team.  
Current Annandale Principal Tim Thomas called the event “a wonderful opportunity to honor incredible individuals and incredible teams.” One of the many things that stands out at Annandale High School is “the genuine level of care and concern for students. The kids that challenge us the most are the ones that need us the most.”

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