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After a year-long construction and renovation project, the newly expanded Oak Marr RECenter is open once again and getting rave reviews from customers. The new, two-story fitness center features all new exercise equipment, lots of natural light and access to the Fitlinxx virtual tracking system, which helps you monitor your progress over time. “It was worth the wait,” said returning customer Pat Tessier of Oakton on the RECenter’s opening day. “It is beautiful!”

Exercising

Karen Brouch-Brioso of Fairfax was also impressed with Oak Marr’s new features. “It’s great. The exercise machines are really nice, and the fitness room is much more open with lots of natural light. That [the windows] gives you a pleasant view while you are working out.”

Oak Marr is where Katie and Chris Clover of Vienna take their child for swimming lessons. After seeing the expanded fitness room along with Oak Marr’s new baby sitting center, they decided to consider becoming RECenter members. “It’s pretty awesome,” said Katie. Chris agreed. “There’s a lot of new equipment, and it looks like there’s no lack of an open machine.”

In addition to the expanded fitness center and supervised babysitting area, Oak Marr’s new amenities include treadmills with personal television viewing screens; a hardwood fitness studio for classes, including ballet-inspired barre; a dedicated stretching area; three new multipurpose rooms for fitness classes and other activities; a new spin studio with a projector and pull-down screen; and a vibrant new lobby and sitting room with wireless Internet access to further enhance the customer experience.

Oak Marr has undergone several transformations since opening in 1988. The latest is the most comprehensive upgrade to date. It was funded by the 2012 park bond.

1963 Record-Setting Swim Team Shapes Up for Old Times’ Sake

If you’re looking for motivation to shape up and get fit in the New Year, you may find inspiration in the story of Roger Russell, Roger Williams, Jimmy Dickson and Steve Mason. The four men recently found their fitness motivation in a memory – a 51-year-old memory – of the time the intrepid foursome committed themselves to three-a-day workouts and Saturday swim meets and propelled their way into Northern Virginia swimming history.

“We were like a little perfect storm,” Mason recalled. “We had the best team and the best coach.”

Swim Team

As members of the Vienna Woods Swim Club, they set multiple individual and team records in the mid-1960s. All of their records have since been broken, except one: the 1963 record time for the 11- and 12-yearold boys’ 100-yard medley relay. “To learn that record still stands was a shock,” said Russell. Dickson remembers being equally surprised the day they set the record. “Our [100] meter record was 1:07 and so our time for 100 yards should have been around 61 seconds,” he recalled. “We had no clue that we set a record until the referees and timers huddled up and compared stop watches,” Mason said. “We finished in 58.4 seconds. We were elated.”

By the time high school rolled around, the four drifted away on their individual journeys. Some opted to play other sports. Williams excelled in swimming at San Jose’ State University competing alongside another champion destined to set his own gold-medal record at the 1972 Olympic Games: Mark Spitz. Eventually, Williams found his calling in business. Dickson became a lawyer. Russell’s profession was engineering, and Mason became a general contractor. Decades passed. Then, a 2012 swim club reunion brought three of the four together again. While reminiscing about “the summer of pain,” Dickson came up with an idea: find the missing man, Roger Russell, start training, and re-enact that golden moment from 1963 by racing the clock at Oak Marr RECenter. The goal: to see how close they could come to finishing the 100-yard medley relay in their still-standing record time.

“My first reaction was, ‘Well, that’s just Jimmy,’” said Williams with a laugh, “but you never lose that competitive spirit, and we had such camaraderie back then.”

Training Begins

An Internet search located Russell in Centreville. Mason gave him a call, and soon, all four men, most of them grandfathers, were committed and motivated to train for the reunion race and recreate that golden moment from their childhood. They communicated by e-mail challenging each other with reports of their individual workouts.

“Jimmy Dickson and Roger Williams were egging everyone on,” Mason said. Roger Russell joined Oak Marr RECenter and started his workout regimen there. “When you haven’t done it for 40 years, it’s a real challenge,” he said while recalling his first day of training several months ago. “I barely made it to work the next morning!”

Even Williams, who today plays competitive water polo, admits that time takes its toll. “I’m trying to stay in as good a shape as possible, but age is definitely an equalizer.”

The Reunion

The Reunion

The reunion race day came in September 2014 when the team members assembled poolside at Oak Marr RECenter. It was the first time all four had been together since 1967, but the half a century of distance had no chance against the memories.

“When you grow up in team sports, you go through so much together that you get a strong bond,” Williams said. “Even though you haven’t seen each other in a long time, you still have that tight bond regardless of the number of years that have gone by.”

They wore matching team shirts proudly displaying the first-place ribbons they won in the record-breaking 1963 race. As the “visiting” team, Dickson felt compelled to dump water from their home pool, Vienna Woods Swim Club, into the host pool, a team tradition. “This gives us an edge,” he said jokingly as his teammates grinned. He also held up four Kool Aid packets and reminisced about the things they used to consume to enhance their swimming performance. “When we were kids, we drank Kool Aid and ate honey and sugar cubes. We thought that gave us a boost, legally!” His teammates broke up laughing.

Then, it was time for one last tradition before the race – the team’s good-luck cheer. They used to swim out to the center of the pool to do it. This time, they opted to conserve their energy for the race and do it at the pool’s edge.

The Race

The moment of truth came just after 2:30 p.m. Three timers set their stopwatches, and Russell assumed his position to start the relay. “I just have to not drown,” he told himself as he propelled backward to swim the first leg of the race, backstroke. Williams was waiting at the other end with his own nervous thoughts about his breast stroke. “I just want to get off the wall without false starting, and Russell better touch [the wall] right or I’m going to beat him up!” Fear can often be a powerful motivator, and Dickson, the butterfly swimmer, saw a much bigger force in Williams swimming toward him this time around than he did when he was just a boy. “This guy is 6’4” and I’ve got to dive over him?” he questioned. “I might not make it! There’s no spring in these legs anymore!”

He cleared the dive with room to spare. Mason, who strikes an amazing resemblance to Santa Claus, finished the freestyle leg of the race with the hopeful enthusiasm of a child. “I know one thing for sure. We are going to set a record today; the 100- yard medley record for 63- and 64-yearold men.” Friends and family including children and grandchildren cheered as the men swam. In the end, the teammates didn’t match their childhood record, but they finished with the respectable time of 1:10.04 – just 12 seconds off the 1963 record. That was good enough to fulfill Dickson’s lifelong motto: “Don’t embarrass your momma and daddy or your amigos.”

The Future

The reunion race may be over, but it’s hardly the end of the line for these determined swimmers. They’re already pushing for another challenge, next summer, when they hope to race the current Vienna Woods Swim Club 11- and 12-year-old boys’ medley relay team. “Yeah, Roger Williams will be at the top of his age group then,” Dickson exclaimed with a hearty laugh. “If nothing else,” Williams countered, “it shows our grandkids the importance of having fun and keeping in shape.”

Work crews at Spring Hill RECenter are in the homestretch of a massive renovation and expansion project that is already getting rave reviews from patrons and staff. The new fitness center is nearly four times the size of the old one, and features a new line of Cybex weight training machines. The 3,000-square-foot group exercise area includes a custom-built TRX suspension system, plenty of space for additional fitness classes and events and lots of windows.

“The new view is pretty awesome,” said martial arts instructor Doug Moffet. “There’s lots of natural light.” One of the most eagerly awaited amenities is Spring Hill’s new high school regulation-sized gym with its elevated, three-lane track for walkers and runners who want an indoor fitness option. One lap around the track equals 1/12 of a mile. In addition to public track time, patrons can look forward to new group fitness options on the track when it opens later this winter.

“I am planning specific walking programs for active, older adults, as well as collaborating with our nationally certified running coach to create new, sport-specific training for run/walk events in the community,” said Kristen Pierce, a fitness instructor at Spring Hill. The new track will also be incorporated into interval, boot camp and circuit training classes.

Renovated locker rooms with private shower stalls, five family changing rooms, and a remodeled administrative area opened earlier this fall along with the pool and fitness rooms. Patrons say the new, airy facility enhances the sense of community they have always felt as members of Spring Hill RECenter.

Basketball

“You meet people that live where you live,” said member Carla Tucker. “You find out about the new restaurants, best doctors, latest Tysons news, people’s vacation spots. It’s a wonderfully managed facility. It’s just a wonderful place.”

The Spring Hill RECenter project was funded by the 2008 and 2012 park bond. The new fitness center and gym are expected to open in mid-December.

Colvin Run Mill Restoration Nears Completion

Colvin Run Mill Restoration
Nears Completion

For the first time since Warren G. Harding was President, two stones are working at Colvin Run Mill, which will enable the mill to grind two different grains at the same time when it is fully restored early next year. The mill is quickly being restored to its 1811 glory thanks in part to a $75,000 grant it received by popular vote one year ago.

“One of the conditions of the grant was to move forward quickly or give the money back,” said Colvin Run Mill manager Mike Henry. “If it hadn’t been for the support of the Park Foundation and the community with this campaign, this project would still be on the drawing board.”

The mill finished fourth in a field of 24 regional historic sites vying for grants through the online Partners in Preservation voting contest sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express. The grant is being used to restore the mill’s grain elevator and the rest of the renovation is being funded through bond money.

“Back in 1811, this was the modern marvel, and people would come from miles around to watch this thing work,” Henry said. “Now, more than 200 years later, people come from miles around to watch this thing work, and soon, we’ll be able to fully demonstrate how it worked back in 1811.”

Once the restoration is complete, Colvin Run Mill will be one of only a handful of fully operational gristmills of its kind in the world.

The grand opening for the fully restored Colvin Run Mill is expected to take place in spring 2015.

Make your Holidays
Merry in Parks!

From family events to holiday crafts and shopping, you’ll find lots of ways to enjoy the winter season in Fairfax County Parks. Have an old-fashioned good time exploring winter parkland via a hayride, ride the holiday train, create a holiday wreath, celebrate the season with a holiday tea, browse hand-made gifts at a holiday craft show or enjoy one of the many other winter activities in parks throughout December.

Holiday Gifts Galore

Holiday Gifts Galore Whether you’re shopping for family, friends, teachers or the paper carrier this holiday season, many unique gift ideas can be found at Park Authority shops, and with no wait in line. You’ll find plenty of options for fitness enthusiasts and golfers at the Twin Lakes and Laurel Hill golf course pro shops. Both stores offer name-brand sports apparel for men and women as well as golf clubs, golf shoes, balls, sunglasses and other essentials. The shops at Green Spring Gardens and Frying Pan Farm Park offer gifts for nature lovers, gardeners and children on your list. For history buffs, try Green Spring Historic House, Frying Pan Farm Park and Sully Historic Site shops. Books, CDs and DVDs are among the offerings as well as history-themed gifts for all ages

Children’s Holiday Shopping

Children’s Holiday ShoppingMost children love surprises, and soon, your children will be able to orchestrate their own secret gift-giving strategy through children’s holiday shopping events at Frying Pan Farm Park. Children arrive with their list, and volunteers help them check it twice as they select holiday surprises for the whole family on Dec. 6 and 7. Older children can shop Dec. 8 without volunteer assistance. Parents can wait at the Old Floris Schoolhouse while gifts are selected and wrapped at the country store, ensuring no holiday surprise is spoiled before gift-giving time.

Park Authority Gift Cards

Park Authority Gift Cards

Can’t decide what to get? No problem! You can pick up Park Authority gift cards at all nature centers, RECenters, golf courses and gift shops. Gift cards can be used to purchase classes, merchandise, golf rounds, RECenter memberships and anything else offered at Park Authority locations.

Back by Popular Demand - Gifts for the Golfer!

Here’s a holiday gift idea that’s sure to be a hit with any golfer – a day on the links! The Park Authority’s discounted packages were such a big hit last holiday season, we’re offering them again this year one day only – Black Friday. Stop by or call the Fairfax County Park Authority golf course of your choice between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday, November 28, 2014 to purchase gift certificates for the special packages, which are detailed in the sale flyer.

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