The Virginia AAA Spring Jubilee drew 9,500 fans last week, which proved beneficial for the VHSL and Jubilee host Westfield High School.
Nationwide, the high school sports season is easily the busiest. For apparent reasons, it's the only time on the school calendar when the weather improves-funny since it coincides with the end of the school year so students have to mix in track meets with SAT prep.
Growing up in Southern California and Arizona, weather never had a say on whether we missed any games (only contest I missed in the athletic career was a football game due to wildfires in California, an event quite foreign to the mid-Atlantic region). Since the coldest it gets in San Diego in the winter is the low-50s (a heat wave in February here), boy's and girl's soccer get the winter all to themselves, leaving football for the fall and lacrosse in the spring.
Since the fine Commonwealth of Virginia public school athletics governing body (VHSL) prefers to keep fall Friday nights sacred for football, soccer is left to battle it out for space on the athletic calendar with lacrosse as well as share resources with track, baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis, and other sports.
The spring is jammed, it's loaded, and it blazes by. As a Northern Virginia-implant, it's as overwhelming as it is exciting.
And no event encapsulates that kind of controlled insanity than the VHSL's Spring Jubilee. Implemented during the 1996 spring season, the clever idea was made with making the craziness of hosting, organizing, and playing the spring sports' championship games...less crazy. For the last four seasons, the Virginia AAA Jubilee has been hosted at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va.
Since Westfield is the site of the state-wide Jubilee, Northern Region athletic directors like Pat Full at Oakton High decided to host the whole litany of post-season action at the Chantilly school.
"The idea of the Jubilee was having that one stop for all of the events; we use it for our districts, for our region and for the state and that way everyone comes in-we had the soccer games and the baseball games going on at once, and now the lacrosse game-you can come in and watch a multitude of different things at a high level of play," said Full.
The convenience the Jubilee provides is two-fold: for the general high school sports fan and especially for Northern Region schools. Dreamed up by former Westfield athletic director Francis Dall, Westfield prepared and won its bid to host the Jubilee in order to drive up state championships to be played in the Northern Region.
That dream proved rather fruitful. This year's event drew over 9,500 fans from Tuesday's lacrosse quarter-finals to Saturday's various championships. Saturday's finale was a boy's lacrosse state championship between Langley High and Chantilly High Schools...which campuses are 30 and 15 minutes away from Westfield respectively. The close proximity of Westfield allows Northern Region contestants to not spend out of their budget for traveling, thereby alleviating some of the money burden on the individual school. And when the event's biggest draw is between two local schools, obviously the attendance bump proves beneficial both in gate receipts and concessions.
"People know they can come here to watch a variety of different sports. And if you have a school that travels and you have more than one team, you have an opportunity to see them all for the one price," said Full.
The mood around Westfield's athletic complex was as laid-back and relaxed as possible, definitely fitting the spring sports vibe (spring's biggest sport, track, is often lauded for its social atmosphere). For an event that draws fans from all over the commonwealth, it was subdued and the only regulating of the masses was when Full and other event organizers had to brush fans away from Westfield's elevated football/soccer/lacrosse field that had a fence around it.
"Nothing out the usual, we have the same issues that you have at any school event," said Full.
Westfield's complex (with adorning Bulldog statue and landscaped "W") makes it easy to move around to each game with its baseball, softball, and lacrosse/soccer fields making a small triangle with their placement, keeping the event along the lines the typical school event that Full referenced. I'm positive both the VHSL and Westfield appreciated the high turnout from local and traveling fans alike as the league got to take home the gate receipt and the school got to sell a ton of burgers for its booster program.
Midway through their second contract with Westfield to host the Jubilee, the VHSL is enjoying reaping the benefits from hosting their state championships at one of their own high schools. Unless the VHSL foresees a surge of patrons in future Jubilees and be forced to look for college campuses like George Mason to be future hosts, they should go on ahead and accept the next couple of bids from Westfield.
Why ruin such a good thing?