A Loudoun high schooler bound for college this fall will head there with some extra cash to help pay for his track and field career.
The Algonkian Running Club on Friday awarded Potomac Falls High School Senior Anthony Panagides an $1,800 scholarship for winning an essay contest—money the runner said he would use to pay for proper running equipment and to enter track meets once at the University of Virginia this fall. That check came from donations the club received for the virtual race series it hosted in April, which included a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon that runners participated in on their own time.
ClubSocial DirectorSydny Bryan said that when the club lost access to the Potomac Falls High School track, which it used each Thursday morning for training purposes, her husband, club member Tanner Bryan, decided to do something to keep the community running and to support the school’s eldest track stars, who were left without a senior year track and field season when the county school system closed for the remainder of the year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bryans organized a series of four races to be held each Saturday in April, starting with the 5K and ending with the full marathon. Those races weren’t organized in a way that saw runners sprint off the starting line all together, though. To keep social distancing measures in place, runners were encouraged to start the races at any point on the designated days each race was scheduled to be run. While the first three races were chalked out to start and end in Algonkian Regional Park, the full marathon stretched 26.2 miles from the W&OD Trailhead in Purcellville to the Reston YMCA.
And it wasn’t just Loudoun-based runners participating—runners in Maryland, West Virginia and Georgia, Bryan’s home state, also ran their own races where they could. And not only did the runners receive makeshift medals made out of Corona Extra cans, but their donations also contributed to the total $1,800 Panagides will use during his freshman year in college in Charlottesville.
Bryan said that while the initial goal was to raise $500 for a book scholarship, the club was overwhelmed to see it brought in nearly four times that amount. Panagides was one of three applicants to submit essays, all of which were judged by running club board members. Bryan said Panagides’ essay was “a clear winner” with favorable responses to three questions—what the applicant’s post-high school plans were, how the money would help them achieve those plans and what running meant to them.
“He wrote a great submission,” Bryan said about Panagides’ essay. “He seems like a well-rounded kid.”
In his essay, Panagides, who will study electrical and computer engineering and business at the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, wrote that running not only promotes physical well-being, but also mental well-being. He wrote that one of the ways he and his family connects during the coronavirus crisis is through running, a sentiment Bryan said club members really appreciated.
“It’s really helped them stay focused and content during COVID,” Bryan said.
Panagides’ track and field coach, Brandon Jackson, said Panagides is one of the hardest working athletes on the team and that he takes no days off, whether that’s on the track or in the classroom.
Bryan said The Algonkian Running Club hopes to offer the scholarship again next year and wants to also include Potomac Falls’ Cross Country team and Dominion High Schools’ running teams.