Courtesy of: Charles Hartley
This article follows up on this August 2016 article: “Ledecky Second Best Athlete In Her Grade School’s History”.
There’s this elementary school everyone in swimming has heard about as we race furiously towards the Olympic swimming events in Tokyo.
It’s called Little Flower in Bethesda, Maryland just outside of Washington, DC
During the recent Olympic swimming trials, one of the school’s former students, aged 19 Phoebe bacon, qualified for the team finishing second in the 200 backstroke.
It was ultra-impressive but not surprising. Bacon has been on the list of promising swimming radars for several years. In final, she broke the national high school record in backstroke.
A charismatic and engaging personality, a multisport athlete and on the verge of doing great things in the pool and the rest of his life, Bacon’s made his elementary school and his country so proud.
But she’s not the first person from this school to become one of the greatest swimmers the world has ever seen. Nothing else than Katie Ledecky also dated Little Flower and, in fact, became a “friend” of Bacon when Ledecky was in fourth grade and Bacon was in kindergarten.
We all know what Katie ended up doing. Nothing less than establishing herself as the greatest swimmer of all time. She is expected to win gold medals in her four individual events in Tokyo: the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500-meter freestyle events.
The two girls, from the same school, make the ultimate big splash in the pool. The odds that two people from the same school will grow up to be world-class, top-performance swimmers are in the order of a trillion to one.
It’s a wonderful story for Little Flower. These two girls put this school on the national map. In some swimming circles, Little Flower has become a kitchen table conversation.
But as great as this story is, as wonderful as these women are, there is still more about Little Flower that you should know.
There is this guy. A long time ago he went to Little Flower. To this day, they still talk about his accomplishments on the athletic fields and in the swimming pool.
Sports junkies love to speak reverently about the greatness of track and field stars in the three sports of football, basketball and baseball. This guy took that to another level: he was a star in five sports at LF. Yes, he was really good at soccer, basketball and baseball, but he differentiated himself by performing at high levels in tennis and swimming as well.
He swam for the Mohican Hills Swim during the summers. The team was part of the H division of the Montgomery Country Swim League (the best division was A who swam much faster). As a 10-year-old and under, he finished third in freestyle and backstroke and in the divisional championship competition, earning him a season-ending MVP award as the best 10 and under of the l ‘team.
Two years later, he was second in freestyle and third in backstroke in the championship competition and, once again, he won the 12-year-old MVP.
Only one small problem ruined his swimming career. In the championship relay event as a 12 and under at Rockville Municipal Swim Center, he started his team with the backstroke.
Aware that he was in a high level competition, he wanted to show himself by doing a back flip at the end of the first round. But he hadn’t practiced it and got all twisted and tangled in the rope in the hallway. The turn therefore took about seven seconds and he finished last of the bibs with about four seconds.
His other three teammates, who had come with hopes of winning the race, never stood a chance after their bibs knocked them out of the race essentially before it started. The Mohican Hills 12-and-under Boys’ Relay Team, which had come together so cohesively at the H Division Relay Carnival a month earlier and qualified them for the big championship competition, was no longer consistent. The jubilation of July turned to the anger of August.
As they walked away from the pool, each of them asked Little Flower’s bib why he tried the back flip. The honest answer, which he didn’t tell them that day, was that he wanted to look cool. Since then, this quartet has not spoken to each other. It was too moving for one of them to talk about it again. They all parted ways.
But enough about swimming. In tennis, this guy was second behind Paul Meehan at the Montgomery County tennis tournament at the age of 12. As he made it through the first five rounds, Meehan easily handled it 6-3, 6-2 in the championship. A second place trophy wasn’t great, but the material is the material.
But here’s what you need to understand: swimming and tennis were his two hobbies. Playing basketball, football and baseball is what propelled him to the top of the Little Flower sports scene and is talked about to this day.
It would become tedious and too egotistical to list everything he has accomplished. But let’s consider just a little bit of what he did:
Third year: very first CYO game. Ran the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown against Immaculate Conception at Rock Creek Park. That busted first match was a sign of things to come for the next six years at school.
Grade Six: Boys’ Midget A Basketball, Football and Baseball MVP
Eighth year: MVP of Georgetown Prep, St. John’s, Good Counsel and Knights of Columbus basketball tournaments. Led the team to 29 and 4 records and three tournament titles. The only setback was a 4 for 38 shooting performance in the City Championship game against St. Paul & Augustine.
He tried to come out of a crisis but never succeeded. His errant shot lost his team 37 points. It was a setback that still haunts today, as some pundits believed Little Flower was the favorite to win.
But that match was just a brief glimpse into what was one of the most memorable and spellbinding athletic careers in Little Flower School history.
It may not seem fair, but it’s a career that has shown he’s actually a better athlete than Ledecky and Bacon. True, he didn’t reach the Olympics, didn’t play any sports in college, or break a world record.
But when you look at his work, it’s very easy to see. The statistics speak for themselves. MVP awards in many different sports tell you about its versatility. Yes, he lost but it was only his fault a few times.
You might think that elementary school athletic accomplishments or this whole thing seems inappropriate and wrong to you.
But that’s just one man’s opinion. And There you go : Phoebe bacon is Little Flower’s third tallest athlete; Ledecky ranks second.
And this guy, a swim blogger named Charlie Hartley, is the best athlete in the history of this famous star-studded elementary school.
Charles Hartley is a freelance writer based in Davidson, North Carolina. He holds a master’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in business administration.